What is the best games console? The best games console is the Sony PlayStation 4, but for many users the Xbox One is a very close second-best. We rank the Nintendo Wii U in third place. Check out some more top games consoles in our best games console chart below.

Games consoles are must-haves for many of us, but they're expensive. So keep in mind that you can still pick up older consoles and games at much cheaper prices. And check that the games that have caught your eye are available for your chosen platform. Here's our list of the best games consoles you can buy in the UK in 2016.

Also see: All games consoles reviews, PS4 vs Xbox One, best gaming laptops 2016, best gaming PCs 2016 and best budget gaming PCs 2016

Game console buying advice

There are a number of things to consider before buying yourself a new games console, and here we will talk you through the various options, and what they offer.

Type of console: First of all, you need to decide which kind of gaming experience you want, as offerings from different companies have different focuses. A good example of this is Nintendo, with the Wii U; while the Wii U doesn’t offer the same level of processing power and intense action-packed gameplay as the likes of Sony and Microsoft, the company excels at selling a product that gets the gamer physically involved, thanks to the motion controllers. Instead of pressing buttons on a controller to bowl a bowling ball, you physically get up and do it yourself – although the same outcome is achieved when waving the controller while sat on a sofa, but that’s not the point.

While the Wii U may be suited to family activities and those who haven’t played a games console before, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are the best options available on the market at the moment. A good balance between pricing, game availability and processing power means the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 can offer PC-level graphics and performance without the gaming PC price tag. The controller-based systems allow users to respond quickly to what’s displayed on screen, bringing with it fast paced gameplay that’ll keep you entertained for hours. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 also have full-blown stores that don’t only offer new games to play, but also on-demand TV apps like BBC iPlayer and Netflix.

Of course, the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U require you to be at home when gaming. Those that are constantly travelling and are on the go may want a portable option – which is where the likes of the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS come into play. The Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita both offer gaming experiences that cannot be rivalled by the likes of the iPhone 6s or Galaxy S6.

The Nintendo 3DS provides gamers with classic Nintendo games including popular Nintendo franchise like Mario & Luigi and Zelda on the go – in 3D. The PS Vita offers a PlayStation-esque experience with impressive graphics and the ability to stream your PS4 game via your Vita, allowing you to play your console games from anywhere in the world (as long as you have an internet connection). Although with this being said, it seems that the PS Vita is nearing the end of its’ shelf life with developers seldom releasing PS Vita variations of their games, although many do still support its Remote Play feature.

More recently, a new media streamer/console hybrid has arrived in the form of the nVidia Shield TV, a set-top box with a heavy focus on casual gaming. While the Shield offers all the same features that a standard media streamer would (on-demand TV, etc) it also offers a number of Shield-exclusive games that are pretty power-intensive.

The console comes with a standard game controller, and even boasts the ‘Netflix of gaming’ where users can pay a monthly fee to access a number of games from an online library, where it’s instantly streamed to the TV with no prior download required. It also allows you to stream your PC games to your TV, taking your PC gaming to the big screen without the need for wires. This, along with the likes of the new Apple TV are the ideal consoles for casual gamers – people that want to play a game or two in their spare time, but don’t have the £300+ to invest in a console and £40+ to spend on games.

Exclusives: Another important factor to take into considering when deciding which console to buy is console exclusives. Each console has its own set of exclusive games, that will appear on other consoles much, much later – or even not at all, in some cases.

For example, the latest Lara Croft game, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is an Xbox exclusive for a year, which means while Xbox gamers can play the game right now, PS4 and PC owners have to wait until next Christmas. Xbox also has exclusivity over the Halo series, a franchise that experienced huge success on the platform. On the other hand, the hugely popular Uncharted series is a PlayStation exclusive, meaning no other consoles will ever be able to feature it. It’s worth Googling your favourite game franchises (if you have any) before you commit to buying a specific console.

Pricing: Of course, pricing is an important element to consider. While the Xbox One started off £80 more expensive than the PlayStation 4, the two are pretty much the same price – usually picked up for somewhere between £250-300 depending on the bundle you choose (you can find the best PS4 and Xbox One deals here). Although the original Wii was designed to be a cheaper alternative to the PS3 and Xbox 360, the Wii U costs a similar amount to the Xbox One and PS4, between £249.99-£299.99 depending on the bundle. The games for the consoles are also similarly priced, costing between £40-55 depending on the game itself.

The Nintendo 3DS is a tad cheaper than the Wii U (thankfully) – you can pick up a slightly older variation of the 3DS for around £70-100, while the latest variation will set you back somewhere in the region of £170-190. Games are also cheaper too, with the average Nintendo 3DS game costing somewhere between £30-40.

The nVidia Shield TV costs £149.99 for the 16GB variation, which may seem expensive for a media streamer, but the games on the system are fairly cheap. Android games available on the device start at £0.79, while the more advanced games may set you back up to £10. It also has a game streaming service that costs £7.49 a month, but provides you with a vast library of games to play, which is good value for money. You also have the option to buy the latest console games (like The Witcher 3 and Mad Max) to play directly on the Shield too.

Friends: Before heading out and buying any console, it’s important to first do some market research. Now we’re not talking about asking the general public their opinion on which console you should buy, we’re talking about speaking to friends. Why? Because ideally, you’ll want to get the same console as your friends – a huge part of gaming is online gaming, and online gaming without any friends to speak to can become a pretty lonely affair. It’s always going to be a better experience if you’re able to join a game with a friend and chat to them while playing, as if you were both in the same room.

With this being said, we’ve compiled a list of our top game consoles for 2016, which you can find below.

For younger kids also check out our review of the Leapfrog LeapTV

Best games consoles of 2016 UK

1. Sony PS4

Sony PS4
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 15 January 14
  • RRP: £349 inc VAT

The Sony PS4 is a good looking and powerful console with fantastic hardware. We like the new DualShock controller and smooth interface. It's also cheaper than the Xbox One but a lack of killer titles mean it's probably worth hanging back for a while, grabbing after a price drop.

Read our Sony PS4 review.

2. Xbox One

Xbox One
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 12 December 13
  • RRP: £429.99 inc VAT

Xbox One is an imposing new entry to the range of digital entertainment gadgets and offers a glimpse of the future. While implementation leaves a lot to be desired at this early stage, many of the performance issues are likely to be software based and fixable via updates further down the line. If your aspirations are greater than traditional gaming, Xbox One might just be worth believing in.

Read our Xbox One review.

3. Nintendo Wii U

Nintendo Wii U
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 17 December 12
  • RRP: £249 inc VAT

Nintendo got the whole family into gaming with its simple and fun console, the Wii. See what we make of the highly anticipated follow-up in our Nintendo Wii U review.  

Read our Nintendo Wii U review.

4. Nvidia Shield TV

Nvidia Shield TV
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 24 November 15
  • RRP: £149.99

We’re extremely impressed by the Nvidia Shield both as a media streamer and as a games console. The beautiful UI and game-streaming technology is powered by one of the most impressive mobile processors on the market at the moment, and provides an experience akin to playing a PS4 or Xbox One. The native 4K resolution that supports 60fps playback is better than any other offering in the UK at the moment, with the Fire TV only being able to support [email protected] GeForce Now has been coined as the ‘Netflix for gaming’ and although the library may be a bit sparse at the moment, the experience is great – being able to choose from a library and play it instantly is an intriguing experience and gives us a glimpse at the future of on-demand gaming.

The only real disappointment comes with the selection of catch-up TV apps, as we could only install BBC iPlayer, leaving those who want to use the likes of All4, Demand5 or ITV Hub without any option. The Shield is so close to being the perfect media streamer but without access to popular apps like those mentioned, it’ll always fall short.

Read our Nvidia Shield TV review.

5. New 3DS and 3DS XL

New 3DS and 3DS XL
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 18 February 15
  • RRP: £149.99 for New 3DS, £179.99 for New 3DS XL

But if you consider the New 3DS's price from a broader perspective, taking into consideration the price of other games consoles, it does seem a bit pricey. You can buy the Sony PS Vita (2014 edition) for around £150, and even the Nintendo Wii U for £160.

For most gamers, though, its value lies in the games available, so for Monster Hunter fans, Pokemon fans or fans of Nintendo's many classics, paying the £150 or £180 for the New 3DS is a no-brainer.

Read our New 3DS and 3DS XL review.

6. Sony PlayStation 3 Slim

Sony PlayStation 3 Slim
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 3 September 09
  • RRP: £159 inc. VAT

As Blu-ray players go, the original PS3 was competitively priced. With a slimmer profile, lower price and lower power consumption, the PlayStation 3 Slim (120GB) is arguably the one to beat. Factor in games, social networking features such as PlayStation Home, music and custom video playback, web surfing, and picture browsing, and this may be the best-value Sony game system yet.

Read our Sony PlayStation 3 Slim review.

7. Xbox 360

Xbox 360
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 2 December 05
  • RRP: £169 (with 60GB hard drive)

It's hard not to be impressed by the Xbox 360. With its high-def output, beautiful wireless controllers and amazing graphical prowess, it's a gamer's dream. Take into account all the additional functionality (Media Center Extender, Xbox Live Arcade, built-in Breville sandwich toaster) and it's an absolute steal. You can either buy this now, or wait for Sony to come good on its promises for PS3. I know which I'd choose.

Read our Xbox 360 review.

8. PlayStation Vita

PlayStation Vita
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 14 February 12
  • RRP: £209 (WiFi)

As with any new gaming platform, the key to success for the PlayStation Vita is the development of sufficient great games, but we like the design and build of the Vita.

Read our PlayStation Vita review.

9. Nvidia Shield

Nvidia Shield
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 1 August 13
  • RRP: $300

The Shield is an impressive bit of hardware but it's niche - and it doesn't really replace any of the devices you already likely own.

Read our Nvidia Shield review.

10. Sony PlayStation TV

Sony PlayStation TV
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 15 July 14
  • RRP: £84 inc VAT

At a reasonable price, the PlayStation TV is likely to be a big hit this Christmas – and not just for PS4 owners wanting to use Remote Play. There's huge potential here for the device to be a gadget in its own right but this hinges partly on third-party apps and even more so on PlayStation Now. We hope Sony can get things sorted for the winter season.

Read our Sony PlayStation TV review.