Whether you grew up with the Atari 2600 or PlayStation 2, you know how much fun owning a video game console can be for the entire family. They remain one of the most wished for gifts every holiday season for children and adults alike. Naturally, you’ve decided it’s time to get one for your kids.
There are plenty of options on the market, but how can you tell which is the best game console for kids? Chances are, they will probably play with the console more than you will. So, you need to ensure that it offers them hours of fun but remains kid-friendly enough to match the boundaries you’ve set for them. Finding something in the middle might seem difficult, especially in different age groups, but there’s a solid list of choices on the market that are sure to satisfy the whole family. We’ve uncovered the ten best gaming consoles for kids and even included a buyer’s guide at the end to help you make the best purchasing decision.
How We Chose Our Ratings
You can find 1001 articles trying to sway your opinion towards a purchase, but what good are they if they don’t give you honest, accurate information? That’s where we separate ourselves from the rest. We’re not here to sell you anything; we just want to empower consumers to make the best purchasing decision possible.
When we create out lists, honesty and accuracy are the names of the game. To ensure our information is as beneficial to your pursuit of a product as possible, we place dozens of items through a rigorous vetting process.
After rounding up several products, we look at their customer reviews. Every company wants you to believe their product is the best, but customers tell the real story about how a product functions and what its level of quality is like. Next, we check out testimonials.
Having done this for years, what we’re looking to do here is separate real testimonials from paid-for advertising. We consider the honest customer accounts and place red flags by those that are bought and paid for. Afterward, we look at the data surrounding the product.
To create this article, finding games on each console that were designed with kids in mind was a vital part of the process. We also considered aspects like user-friendly interfaces, parental controls, and did our best to gauge each console’s fun factor based on how many units were bought by family households. Finally, we look at brand reputation.
Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony dominate the gaming console industry. However, there are some other game system creators whose names are synonymous with child-friendly gaming, like Leapfrog. After using this information to limit our pool of products, we rate each one.
We then take only highly rated products and rate them a second time, vetting them even harsher to develop a top ten list. It’s a long process, but we want to bring you the absolute best products on the market.
Top 10 Best Game Consoles for Kids
Here they are, our list of top ten gaming consoles.
1. Leapfrog LeapTV
- This video game for early learners takes kids on a quest for keys to unlock Clever Castle while exploring letters,...
- Insert the HDMI game stick and USB power cable into the TV and start playing immediately using the wireless controller;...
- Choose between two characters to explore replayable game levels; save unique game progress for up to 5 players
Leapfrog is a giant in children’s entertainment, but their unique console is often overshadowed by video game giants. However, this tiny console is the best out there for children between the ages of three and eight. Like other consoles on the market, kids can enjoy hours of active gaming with a variety of age-appropriate titles that double as educational instruments. The smaller-sized controller is excellent for younger hands, while audio instructions make the system user-friendly. The system is compatible with 100-plus games, all of which are approved by educators. Favorite children characters such as Paw Patrol and Bubble Guppies are featured in their own games, as well as Disney hits. Children can use the classic controller for most games, while others feature point and click or motion controls. The best part about this leapfrog system is its educational purpose. Games disguise concepts ranging from mathematics to reading in fun-filled games. You never have to worry about your children gaining access to mature or teen-rated content, either.
2. Vtech InnoTV
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InnoTV focuses on the same age group as LeapTV, offering an excellent system that also gears its games towards an educational nature. This small, cube-like console offers multiplayer capabilities that the entire family can enjoy as well as a simple plug-and-play nature that connects directly to your television. Wireless controllers eliminate tangled cords, the game cartridges take away the worry of scratched discs, and the compatible software offers dozens of titles. Kids can play with favorite characters ranging from Mickey Mouse to Dora the Explorer in a variety of educational games that cover multiple school topics and foster intellectual development. This is another console where you don’t have to worry about restricting content by age or who your children might be playing with online. User and kid-friendly, the InnoTV is worth considering when you’re hunting down the best game console for kids.
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. Nintendo Switch
- The console is also decorated with images of recognizable characters: Tom Nook and Nooklings Timmy and Tommy
- Includes a Switch console, Switch dock, Joy-Con (L) and Joy-Con (R), and two Joy-Con strap accessories
- Game not included
Nintendo retains its position amongst the video game giants as the most family-friendly system on the market. From franchise favorites like Mario to party games like Overcooked, everyone in the family can enjoy countless hours of entertainment. What separates the Switch from other consoles is its ability to transform into a portable playing device without interrupting a game. If it was time to head to the grocery store, but your child didn’t want to stop playing their game, they could take the portable portion of the console with them in the car. Multiplayer is available even when portable, and the vast majority of games are kid-friendly in their ratings. With the company’s focus on fun, there are plenty of games the whole family can enjoy without the adults feeling as though the games are too childish.
4. Nintendo Wii
- Bundle Includes: Wii Console, Wii Remote, Nunchuk, Wii Remote Jacket, Sensor Bar, Wii AC Adaptor, Wii AV Cable
- Built-in Wi-Fi Access For Easy Connection To Internet
While the next generation of consoles has already been released, you can find a wallet-friendly alternative to all them in Nintendo’s Wii console. The Wii features the same amount of family and kid-oriented games, as well as major hits from the company’s top-selling franchises.The Wii’s intuitive motion controllers were the first of their kind to hit the market and are fun to use. Games ranging from bowling to golf allow the entire family to compete with one another, and the ability for each family member to create their own Mii character is something unique.
5. Xbox One
- Bundle includes: Gradient purple 1TB Xbox One S console, matching purple Xbox Wireless Controller, download of the free...
- Battle to be the last one standing in the worldwide Fortnite phenomenon; Fight in 100 player Battle Royale PVP mode on a...
- Enjoy instant access to over 100 games out of the box with the included 1 Month trial of Xbox Game Pass
Microsoft’s newest gen console is another excellent choice for families, especially those with more than just children playing. Moving away from Nintendo and educational-based systems, you’ll find a mix of both child-friendly games and more intense titles meant for older players. Like its predecessors, the Xbox One offers parental controls in the form of the main user. Simply set yourself up as the primary account, and you can restrict any content necessary for any other account on the system. This is an excellent choice if your children are slightly older, approaching their teens in just a few years, as it becomes a worthwhile investment they can continue playing into that age range. You’ll find plenty of fun titles the family can enjoy, as well as a few you might like after the kids go to bed.
. PlayStation 4
- Heighten your experiences. Enrich your adventures. Let the super charged PS4 Pro lead the way
- 4K TV Gaming : PS4 Pro outputs gameplay to your 4K TV
- More HD Power: Turn on Boost Mode to give PS4 games access to the increased power of PS4 Pro
The PlayStation 4 offers a lot of the same benefits you’ll find in Microsoft’s Xbox One. Both double as an entertainment center, both offer titles for various age ranges, and both include the same ability to restrict content when necessary. If you opt for the Pro model, you can enjoy a 4k experience with any compatible television. Games ranging from Lego titles to Steamworld Dig 2 are smash hits with kids, ensuring hours of gameplay to come. Where the PlayStation console separates itself is VR capabilities. Sony has its own VR headset, allowing kids to immerse themselves in unique experiences purchased through the online store. The choice between an Xbox and PlayStation ultimately comes down to previously owned systems and company preferences.
7. Nintendo 3DS XL
- C Stick for enhanced controls; Built in amibo compatibility and NFC support
- Faster processing power than Nintendo 3DS and Face tracking 3D
- Plays all Nintendo 3DS games
This is a handheld console, making it an excellent choice for any single child. If you have more than one kid (and neither likes to share), then you might consider picking up multiple 3DS systems since they’re far more affordable than full-sized consoles. This handheld features a 3-D widescreen with face-tracking, offering stellar graphics, as well as a touchscreen pad that works with numerous for-fun titles as well as educational ones. The device doubles as a camera, too, while the clamshell design makes it travel-ready. You’ll find plenty of parental control features on the 3DS, though almost every game is rated within children’s age ranges. The only downside here is that it does function more like a one-person device. Families can’t really play together on it, and siblings will probably argue over whose turn it is to play.
8. Nintendo 2DS
- This refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new. The refurbishing process includes...
The 2DS offers all of the features you’ll find in the 3DS minus the 3-D capabilities. In place of the 3-D screen is a high-res 2-D model, though it can still play 3DS titles. Titles like Disney Art Academy and various touch-pen interactive games made this system insanely popular, which makes an excellent choice when thinking of consoles for your kids. The 2DS comes in a standard and XL version, with the XL featuring a larger (by 82%) touchscreen. Regardless of which you choose, it’s sure to be a hit with your kids. The same limitations apply, though. So, keep that in mind when deciding between consoles.
9. Mini Consoles
- Brand New in box. The product ships with all relevant accessories
- German (Subtitle)
Nintendo recently released miniature versions of their original NES and SNES systems, each of which are packed with top titles from the consoles. Sony followed suit with a similar PlayStation model, too. They might not have the flashy graphics and hot titles of today, but they still offer hours of fun for the whole family.These mini consoles are an excellent way to relive some of the titles you may have grown up with your children, and several offer the same two-player functionality found on the original systems for competitive play. Whether you’re familiar with the games or not, it’s hard to find a title that isn’t considered child-friendly today. This eliminated the need for parental controls while also avoiding any worries about online play. They’re fun consoles packed with dozens of games, which means you don’t have to pick up additional titles.
10. The iPad
- Gorgeous 10.2-inch Retina display with True Tone
- A13 Bionic chip with Neural Engine
- 8MP Wide back camera, 12MP Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage
While the iPad may not be a true video game console, it does offer plenty of games via apps. Classics like Pacman and hits like Lego have all made their way onto these devices, and the larger screen makes them an excellent gaming device. Plus, you can find hundreds of educational apps in the Apple Store. Setting up parental controls on an iPad is a simple process; eliminating any concerns you may have when your child browses the web or attempts to download apps. These devices function as far more than game playing machines, too, giving your child access to homework help on the web or a way to take funny pictures. While it might be the uncommon choice, the iPad turns out to be a valid option for kids to game on.
Buyer’s Guide: Best Game Console for Kids
There’s a lot to consider before purchasing a game console your kids can enjoy. Not only do they need to have fun, but you need to be able to protect them through parental controls. With online connectivity so easy these days, it’s vital that you understand a few things before making a purchase.
The Ease of the Internet
The main concern parents have about game consoles is how easily their children can access parts of the internet. Roughly 95% of consoles were used to access adult websites in 2014, namely through Xbox and PlayStation models.
Through play stores, your children also can pick up video games with violent or otherwise adult content as well. There’s also the aspect of online gaming, where other player’s words cannot be restricted. Several parents walk in on their children gaming only to discover a torrent of curse words coming through the TV’s speakers.
While parenting styles differ, knowing that you can place parameters on how your children use their console is beneficial. Even the most laid-back parents would be upset to find their child maxed out a credit card purchasing new games.
Every system features parental controls, but the key is that you need to create a main account before your child does. Through the main account, you can restrict access to some features on the console from R-rated movies in Netflix to M-rated games and more.
Every console has titles that kids will love to play. Some have more than others, but knowing ahead of time how many of those games exist for the console can help you make the most of your purchase. The ESRB rating on any game will tell you which age group the content of that title is roughly appropriate for. Ratings break down as follows:
- E – Everyone
- E 10+ – Everyone ages 10 and up
- T – Teen
- M – Mature/17 and up
- AO – Adults Only
There are only a handful of Adults Only games on the market, with Mature titles being what most parents should look at. Next to each rating is a description of why the game received its ESRB status. An “E” title might feature comic mischief, while an “M” title could feature adult themes and gore. The ESRB website offers a rating for any game on the market, noting which consoles it is available for, and also includes a list of interactive elements for each such as in-game purchases or unrestricted internet. The rating company also offers parental tools to help restrict access to certain content.
One element to consider is what else the console can do besides play games. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft consoles are capable of becoming home entertainment systems. That means the family can watch movies and TV through streaming services. Out of the three giants, the Nintendo Switch is the most limited in its additional features. Nintendo focuses on company content instead from classic titles to special offers on merchandise. Sony and Microsoft’s consoles, however, offer the ability to stream all sorts of content from Amazon Prime to Netflix and Hulu. They also double as Blu-Ray and DVD players.