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The best games console for kids: top picks from Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox

Whether you’re looking for a handheld games console or a top-notch device for serious gamers, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best games consoles for families in 2023.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Dec 20, 2023

Whether your child is after a best-in-class gaming experience from the latest new console or an opportunity to connect and collaborate with friends across multi-platforms, you’ll want a games console that perfectly suits their needs. While Nintendo tends to be a favourite among casual gamers or families with younger children, the likes of PlayStation and Xbox are a great option for older, more serious gamers who are looking for a more powerful console with versatility.

If the terms 'haptic feedback', 'adaptive triggers' and 'dualsense controller' have left your head in a spin, fear not: we've pulled out the stops to make choosing the best games console easier, trawling the Mumsnet forums to find the best consoles recommended by the UK's largest online network of parents.

We then cross-checked the best games console shortlist with best buy lists from trusted tech publications to make sure we ended up with a list of the best game consoles on the market right now. From handheld devices to classic games consoles, we were keen to know which ones offer plenty of child-friendly fun as well as reassurance to parents that their kids would be safe online.

Looking for more honest, authentic tech recommendations from real parents? Check out our guides to the best kids' tablets, the best cameras for kids and the best laptops for kids.

Here is our pick of the best games console for kids in 2024.

Related: Looking for a kids' tablet which can support their favourite games, but only once they've finished their homework? Check out our reviews of the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro and the Samsung Galaxy A8 Tab.

1
Nintendo Switch OLED
What we like
  • Can be hooked up to the TV or used as a handheld device

  • Good choice of family games

  • Two controllers for social gaming

  • More vibrant 4K screen than the original Switch

What we don't like
  • 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

  • Internal storage could be better

Key specs

Age: 3+ | Included: Two Joy-Con controllers, Nintendo Switch dock, Joy-Con grip, AC adapter, HDMI cable and Joy-Con straps | CPU/GPU: NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor | Built-in sensors: Accelerometer, gyroscope, and brightness sensor | Resolution: 1280x720 megapixels | Battery life: 4.5-9 hours | Storage: 64GB

What Mumsnet users say
Slushycuppa · Tried & Tested
I have a Switch OLED and my kids have the older ones. The OLED has a bigger and clearer screen. But this only applies when you're playing hand held. The picture quality is the same on the TV. The OLED also lets you connect your Switch to an ethernet cable (so wired Internet connection).
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Our verdict

As far as Mumsnet parents are concerned, there really is only one winner of the title of best handheld games console, and that’s the Nintendo Switch OLED. While it comes in a variety of formats, the Nintendo Switch OLED gets our pick as the best games console you can buy today.

As well as hooking the console up to your TV, the Switch can be used in tabletop or handheld mode, meaning you can enjoy the home console experience pretty much anywhere - within reason. OLED is the newest member of the Nintendo Switch family, with improvements including a vibrant seven-inch OLED display 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 OLED the ideal way to keep kids entertained on long car journeys.

The Switch has a huge variety of family-friendly games, such as Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing and Pokémon, and is a great way to keep the whole household entertained.

Read next: The best Nintendo Switch games for kids

2
Nintendo Game and Watch Super Mario Bros

Best games console on a budget

What we like
  • Simple controls

  • Nostalgia factor

  • Small and lightweight for children

What we don't like
  • Feels quite flimsy


Key specs

Price on writing: £49 | Age: 3+ | Included: Console | CPU/GPU: Unspecified | Built-in sensors: Unspecified | Resolution: 320x240 megapixels | Battery life: 8 hours (approx.)  | Storage: Unspecified

What Mumsnet users say
Blogdog · Recommended
The Nintendo Super Mario Game & Watch have been re-released for Mario’s 35th anniversary. My own son has asked for it [...] My sister had an original back in the 80s and we loved it.
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Our verdict

If older games are your jam, look no further. The Nintendo Game & 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 children too.

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 solo, but its size does make it a little flimsy. And if you enjoy this little trip down memory lane, then good news - the classic The Legend of Zelda is also available to use with this device.

Read next: Discover the best family board games for wholesome fun for the whole family, and delve deeper with our reviews of family-favourite Dobble and Carcassonne.

3
Nintendo Switch Lite
What we like
  • Lightweight and small for children to hold

  • Kids can game online with friends

  • Cheaper than standard Switch

What we don't like
  • Can’t be hooked up to the TV

  • Can’t be used with Nintendo Switch dock

Key specs

Price on writing: From £185 | Age: 3+ | Included: Comes with AC adaptor | CPU/GPU: NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor |  Built-in sensors: Accelerometer / gyroscope | Resolution: 1280x720 megapixels | Battery life: 3.0 to 7.0 hours | Storage: 32GB

What Mumsnet users say
MuchTooTired · Tried & Tested
My husband 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.
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Our verdict

The Nintendo Switch is great for holidays and long car journeys, but if you really want to streamline your tech, then the Nintendo Switch Lite comes highly recommended by Mumsnet parents - and at a cheaper price point than its larger counterpart, making it the best games console for on-the-go fun.

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 32GB of storage, which is considerably less than other consoles, but it's still one of the best gaming consoles in terms of on-the-go capability.

Related: Want to boost your child's learning from the comfort of your own home? Check out our guide to the best online tutoring here.

4
Sony PlayStation 5 Console
What we like
  • Very fast load times

  • 3D audio puts you at the heart of the action

  • Amazing graphics

What we don't like
  • Sell out very quickly

  • Pricey

  • Only one dual sense controller included

Key specs

Price on writing: £379 | Age: 7+ | Included: DualSense wireless controller, HDMI cable, power cord and USB cable | CPU/GPU: Custom 8-core AMD Zen 2, variable frequency up to 3.5 GHz | Built-in sensors: unspecified | Resolution: N/A | Battery life: N/A | Storage: Custom 825GB SSD

What Mumsnet users say
fantastaballs · Tried & Tested
My kids and nephews all got PS5s last year [...] Very happy kids all around.
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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 interface with friends online - although you only get one dual sense controller included, so you’ll probably need to buy more for playing as a group. Make sure to invest in some high-quality kids' headphones too.

It has a larger storage compared to the PlayStation 4 and it can stream rapidly for speedy loading. In terms of games, it’s not quite as family-friendly as the Nintendo Switch but younger children will enjoy playing 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.

Related: Discover the best books for 8-year-olds and the top-rated toys for four-year-olds.

5
What we like
  • Speedy loading

  • Plays games from four generations of Xbox

  • Games pass gives access to 100-plus titles

What we don't like
  • Expensive

Key specs

Price on writing: From £406 | Age: 3+ | Included: One wireless controller and HDMI cable | CPU/GPU: 3.8 GHz, 3.6 GHz with SMT | Built-in sensors: unspecified | Resolution: 8K | Battery life: N/A | Storage: 1TB

What Mumsnet users say
AldiIsla · Recommended
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 Xbox S is good too.
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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.

In terms of compatibility, 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 is the best games console in terms of investment for the whole family.

Read next: Discover what Mumsnetters ranked as the best kids' smartwatch and the best phone for kids.

6
What we like
  • Family settings app allows easy game time management

  • No discs needed, meaning less clutter

  • Games pass gives access to thousands of games

What we don't like
  • Only plays digital games (no disk drive for blu-ray)

  • Doesn’t support 4K gaming

  • Less storage than the Xbox Series X

Key specs

Price on writing: From £246 | Age: 3+ | Included: Xbox Wireless Controller with two AA batteries, high speed HDMI cable and power cord | CPU: 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz (3.6GHz with SMT) | GPU: Custom AMD Radeon RDNA Navi 12 Teraflops, 52 CUs at 1.825GHz (supports DirectX Raytracing) | Built-in sensors: Unspecified | Resolution: 1440p and up to 120FPS | Battery life: N/A | Storage: 1TB

What Mumsnet users say
Leafypattern · Tried & Tested
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. Would highly recommend as it saves on the high prices of some of the games.
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Our verdict

If you’re looking to purchase the best games console for use 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. The free Xbox Family Settings app on Android and iOS makes it easy to manage your child’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’s still a great gaming 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.

Read next: Looking for gift inspiration for kids of all ages? Check out our guides to the best toys for 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds and eight-year-olds.

7
Nintendo Super NES Classic Mini Console
What we like
  • Excellent selection of retro games

  • Comes with two controllers

  • Child-friendly games

What we don't like
  • Limited to pre-loaded games

  • Expensive for what you get

  • Can’t do online gaming

Key specs

Price on writing: £250 | Age: 12+ | Included: HDMI cable, one USB power cable and two wired Super ES classic controllers | CPU: 4 × ARM Cortex-A7 | Built-in sensors: Unspecified | Resolution: Unspecified | Battery life: N/A | Storage: 512MB NAND flash memory

What Mumsnet users say
MindyStClaire · Recommended
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.
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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 the Nintendo 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 this is definitely the best games console if you're looking to settle some 30-year-old scores.

Related: Don't miss our guides to the best fidget toys and the top-ranking dinosaur toys according to Mumsnetters.

8
Nintendo Switch (Classic)
What we like
  • Connect to the big screen for multiplayer TV mode

  • Great range of multiplayer games, including indie games

  • Wireless Joy-Con controllers

What we don't like
  • May need an external storage card if you have a large number of games

  • OLED model offers larger screen for handheld play

Key specs

Price on writing: From £260 | Age: 3+ | Included: Two Joy-Con controllers, Nintendo Switch dock, Joy-Con grip, AC adapter, HDMI cable and Joy-Con straps | CPU/GPU: NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor | Built-in sensors: Accelerometer, gyroscope and brightness sensor | Resolution: 1280 x 720 megapixels | Battery life: Approximately 4.5-9 hours | Storage: 32GB

What Mumsnet users say
Nap1983 · Tried & Tested
They are quite expensive, but honestly worth it! We bought my daughter 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!
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Our verdict

Due to its larger, brighter screen, we feel it’s worth investing in the Switch OLED if your kids are planning to play solo, however the original Nintendo Switch offers a very similar multiplayer experience with a slightly lower price tag, making it our pick for the best games console for larger groups.

By connecting the Switch to your TV or PC, the whole family can compete together in games such as Mario Party, Cooking Fever and Just Dance, battling it out with freedom of movement thanks to the wireless Joy-Con controllers.

When it’s time for their friends to go home, your child can quickly and easily attach the controllers to revert to handheld mode. At 32GB, it’s worth noting that the internal memory on the original Switch is half the size of the OLED, so you may want to purchase a separate SD card if they’re building up an extensive game library, especially when downloading games from the Nintendo store.

Read next: Discover the top online learning resources to boost your child's learning this summer.

How do I choose the best games console for kids?

When buying a games 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.

Read next: Amazon Fire 7 Kids vs Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids: Which is the best kids' tablet?

How to make sure your child stays safe while gaming

One of the great things about the best games 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 gaming console is the best?

The Nintendo Switch OLED is the most popular games console for kids and the best handheld gaming 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.

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.

Our writer used her own experiences of looking for a games console for children. 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.

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 a top pick 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.

About the author

Mum-of-two Gemma Wilcock has over 15 years of experience writing for print and online publications covering issues surrounding parenting, health and lifestyle, as well as researching and writing in-depth product reviews for Mumsnet. She has worked for the Mumsnet Reviews team for many years.