Nintendo Wii U. Sony Playstation 4. Xbox One. PC. Nintendo Wii. Sony Playstation 3. Xbox 360. Nintendo 3ds. Nintendo 2ds. Sony Playstation Vita. Ipad. Which video game system should you buy to have the best experience playing video games?
Choice can be a good thing. It leads to more competition which can in turn result in higher quality products. But sometimes having too many choices can be a bad thing for the consumer who has to decide which product to buy and which to eschew. In an era of exclusives and DLC, what’s a consumer to do?
It wasn’t always this difficult. Without going too far back in video game history, the early 90s console wars (Note: If you’re interested in this era, I highly recommend the book Console Wars by Blake Harris. It’s absolutely riveting.) were dominated by the Sega/Nintendo rivalry; sure, other systems popped up here and there, but they were all duds that never really challenged the big guns. Then Playstation came along, Sega died (well, the hardware business at least), and Microsoft carved out their piece of the action. Nintendo continued to be creative, favoring innovation over graphical prowess, whereas Sony and Microsoft focused more on their hardware.
A gross oversimplification, yes, but that brings us to where we are today. So what systems do I own amidst all this confusion? My current setup is an Xbox 360, Wii U, PS4, 3ds, and Vita (and N64, but let’s leave that off the table for now). What do I play the most and why? Right now, I mostly play my Wii U and PS Vita.
First, I acknowledge there are strengths and weaknesses to all of these devices, and what you pick will largely depend on which types of games you want to play. Do you like FPS, and only FPS? Then the Xbox One is built for you. Prefer the cartoony characters you grew up with? Nintendo’s got you covered.
If I was just starting today, I’d buy a Wii U and a PS Vita as essentials, and a PS4 if I could afford it
However, most of the time, we don’t want just one of those things; we have favorites, but we’d like to be able to play a range of games. So what’s the best device (or set of devices) for the well-rounded individual? If I was just starting today, I’d buy a Wii U and a PS Vita as essentials, and a PS4 if I could afford it, and here’s why.
First of all, it’s an easy enough decision for me since I own all the systems: I simply looked at which ones I play the most, and it’s a mix of those three. Looking at my monthly game report for January 2015, you’ll see that 5 of the 8 games I discuss are Wii U titles. I doubt that the report will always be that skewed, but it’s telling. Next, I have 2 Vita titles, and a single PS4 entry on the list…which happened to my lowest rated game in my short tenure.
The Wii U is a tremendously underrated system. Nintendo forewent expensive modern hardware in favor of their traditional innovation, but unfortunately this time it just didn’t catch on like the Wii and motion controls. People didn’t see enough reason for the gamepad, they were upset that the Wii U barely sported better graphics than last gen’s PS3 and 360, and they quickly became despondent that third parties decided to all but abandon the system due to poor sales and the challenges of developing for a gamepad. These issues led to a perceived lack of quality games on the system, and exacerbated Nintendo’s problem of low sales. Heck, some companies like Ubisoft just up and decided not to release games that they developed for the system for reasons of an insufficient user base, which of course is a self-perpetuating problem if developers decide not to release games (as the system needs games to grow its user base).
But none of that matters to me if Nintendo is putting out enough games that I actually want to play. It doesn’t matter to me that other systems have a plethora of third-party games always coming to their systems; I have zero interest in playing 95% of those games anyway. I have limited time to play games (maybe 10-20 hours/week), so all I want is a few good games. And Nintendo’s got me covered in that respect, with outstanding exclusives like Bayonetta 2, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros, Wind Waker HD, Super Mario 3d World (universally applauded, I actually didn’t like this game), Pikmin 3, and a countless number of excellent games on the virtual console. This is to say nothing of great indie titles like Electronic Super Joy, Blek, and Art of Balance, two of which use the gamepad as an essential feature of gameplay. That could easily keep me occupied for my 10-20 hours of gaming each week, and 2015 looks to be another solid year of quality releases.
Yet the Wii U is demonized left and right for just about everything under the sun, and it’s not fair. I feel similarly about the PS Vita, which also takes a lot of unwarranted guff. The Vita is really confusing to me; I sincerely don’t understand why Sony created this fantastic device but actively chose not to market it. I feel it has the potential to give the 3ds a run for its money, but instead it’s sitting waaaay behind in sales (latest tallies: around 10 million for Vita, 46 million for 3ds) with no sign of catching up. But let’s finish discussion of home consoles before moving to handhelds.
The PS4 has been a remarkable success, selling 18.5 million units through just over its first full year in retail. For context, the Wii U is sitting at 9 million despite being on the market for an entire extra year. There is no doubt that Sony has done a great job with the system, and while I was super excited to finally get one last fall, after getting it, I realized I didn’t have many games that I wanted to play on it. I suspected this going in, but I was still somehow disappointed to find that after playing Last of Us Remastered and Shadow of Mordor (both outstanding games), I really didn’t have that much else that I actually wanted to play at the time. That is slowly changing, but it really made me think: Why does the Wii U get so much flak for not having games?
That’s another question for another day, but back to the PS4. I bought this system because I knew that 3rd parties weren’t going to support Wii U, and there were some games I was really looking forward to such as Shadow of Mordor and Batman: Arkham Knight. I generally do not enjoy FPS, so I was much more excited about the exclusives coming to PS4 (or already on the system) than the ones coming to the Xbox One, specifically Last of Us, Until Dawn, The Order: 1886, and Uncharted 4. I liked the game lineup for PS4 so much more than Xbox One that I bought the system despite despising their controllers and absolutely loving the xbox controllers, which is saying a lot. In the previous generation, I had bought the 360 mainly because I loved the controller so much.
What ultimately matters to me nowadays is how fun the game is. You can talk pixels and frames per second until you’re blue in the face, but bluntly put: I don’t care. Make a game that’s fun, and I’ll play. Since the Wii U has the most fun games right now, I play that the most. Since the PS4 seems like it has exclusives that are more fun (for me) than Xbox One, I choose that as a secondary console. For home consoles, many people have suggested that you buy either a PS4 or Xbox One as your main console, and purchase a Wii U just for some exclusives, but I feel the opposite: Buy a Wii U, and buy a PS or Xbox as a secondary console. To make your decision even easier, the Wii U’s the cheapest of the three!
Moving on to the discussion of handhelds, I originally bought a 3ds so I could play A Link Between Worlds. As a sequel to my second favorite game of all time, I simply couldn’t resist buying the device so I could play that game. And ALBW was amazing, and totally worth it. But what then?
I did buy and enjoy a fair number of games for the 3ds, but I never really delved into any games like I do with other consoles. For whatever reason, I just wasn’t particularly taken with the games (despite many saying it boasts an incredible library). Apart from Ocarina of Time 3d, my console ended up being full of games that also appeared on other consoles (like Virtue’s Last Reward) and VC games – basically my favorite games from the NES. And that was cool for a while, but nothing grabbed me. And the games that I did download and play, I could have done just as easily on my Wii U – games like Shovel Knight, 1001 Spikes, Resident Evil Revelations – so I just never really had much occasion to play it. With Majoras Mask coming out, I’m interested in it, but is it worth $40 when I still have my N64 and the original game? Probably not. [Note: I ended up buying the new 3ds and Majoras Mask 3d after writing this article]
The Vita has been a completely different story. I’ve been excited to play it at almost every turn, and it’s full of amazing games. I originally bought it to play Danganronpa, and wow, that game did not disappoint. In fact, the original is in my list of my favorite 20 games of all time, and the second one is my game of the month from January. I’m 50 hours into Persona 4 Golden and loving almost every minute of it. WipeOut 2048 was surprisingly fluid and engaging, Rogue Legacy introduced a cool new concept for traditional platformers in respawning heirs, and Little Big Planet for Vita was a solid version of the game. Add in cross-buy games like Hotline Miami, Velocity 2X, Resogun, and Unfinished Swan, not to mention other solid exclusives like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and you’ll forgive me if I feel tempted to laugh if you were to tell me that Vita doesn’t have any games. I love the Vita, and play it much more than my 3ds.
I will say that I love my current Vita much more than the original version, and that if I had stuck with the first OLED model, I probably wouldn’t play it as much. That’s because, apart from the very slightly downgraded screen on the newer model Vitas, almost everything else is a huge improvement. Better battery life, better comfort, lower weight, improved touchpad, non-proprietary charging port, and – most important to me – vastly improved buttons. Plus, with some creative ebay selling, you might be able to get it for free like I did!
So there you have it. My recommendations are to buy, first and foremost, a Wii U and a PS Vita. If you have the cash, then I’d buy a PS4 as well. Of course, your decision should be based on what types of games you find appealing and enjoyable. I ultimately decided on software this time over the feel of the controller (hence buying a PS4 over an Xbox One), but the playing experience can be a key factor as well. But if you enjoy the Nintendo universe, platformers, action adventure games, and some of the best non-shooter multiplayer out there (Smash and MarioKart), then go with the U. If you enjoy JRPGs or other playstation standards, go with the Vita, specifically the newest model. You won’t be disappointed.
You might criticize me for not evaluating a PC or iPad, but to be honest I just don’t game much on either of those devices, so coupled with their steep buy-in-price, I decided not to weigh in on them. For the games I have played on an iPad, I almost always feel that they are lacking, with the one exception being point and click games like Walking Dead or Wolf Among Us. And my experience with PCs has been one of extreme frustration, as I always found myself missing the right video card or driver or whatever, and it was just a big expensive hassle. Plus, I own a mac so I don’t have access to most PC games anyway.