Xbox? Playstation? Wii? A Cheaper Way To Join The Console Wars

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If you want to try the console gaming experience without the jaw-dropping cost, step back from the hype and consider older models.

In our Getting Back In The Game series, we're helping would-be gamers navigate the wide world of video games — whether you're new to the hobby or a former player who hasn't picked up a controller in a while.

If you've been out of the game, all the hype over the latest consoles may leave you too bewildered to choose. As we said in our platform guide for would-be gamers, consoles are a pretty pricey commitment.

The latest consoles from the big three systems — Sony's Playstation 4, Microsoft's Xbox One and Nintendo's Wii U — will set you back a chunk of money. But if you want to try the console experience without the jaw-dropping cost, used or refurbished versions of a console's previous generations are a far gentler option for your wallet.

So instead of plunking down $400 for a brand-new Playstation 4, for example, there's a good chance you'll find a refurbished model of Sony's previous Playstation, the PS3, for around half the price. Sites like GameStop, Amazon and Best Buy are good places to start looking.

This may not help you figure out which system to go with, however, so here are a few things to consider when choosing an older console.

Out of the three systems' previous models, only the PS3 is also going to get you a Blu-ray disc player, if that's something you need.

The Xbox 360 is largely considered to have a more robust online community, though you have to pay for an Xbox Live subscription.

The Nintendo Wii, the lowest priced of the three, will of course be the only place to play games that feature its exclusive characters like Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong.

All of them will have access to some form of streaming media, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

So what it really comes down to is whose ecosystem you want to commit to, and which company's exclusives — games made only for that system — entice you most.

Here's a quick list of signature games to get you thinking, as well as links to detailed spec sheets for each company's previous console:

  • Sony PlayStation 3 (specs): The Last of Us; Infamous 1 and 2; the Uncharted series; Gran Turismo series; Little Big Planet 1 and 2; Ico/Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection; Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls; God of War series; Journey
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 (specs): Halo series; Gears of War series; Fable series; Forza Motorsport series; Left 4 Dead series; Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
  • Nintendo Wii (specs): Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort; New Super Mario Bros. Wii; Mario Party 8 and 9; Mario Kart Wii; Donkey Kong Country Returns; Metroid; Super Smash Bros. Brawl; The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

It should also be mentioned that new games are still being developed for the PS3 and Xbox 360, so there is still new stuff to play as well as the back catalog (that can be found for often low prices). Nintendo, however, ceased producing new games for the Wii after launching its new system, the Wii U.

Steve Mullis is a Web producer at NPR. If have suggestions or advice regarding the series, please write or tweet him. You can also follow the action on our gaming Tumblr, NPR Plays.

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