It's always a great time to get back into console gaming.
PC gamers might have a lot of freedom when it comes to tweaking your own performance settings and hardware specs, but there's something close to guilty pleasure about being able to just plug a game disc into your favorite console and have everything work just right.
And if you're thinking about switching consoles, or waxing nostalgic about the 'good old days,' we've got a few surprises for you.
We take a look at some of this year's highest-rated and best-selling gaming consoles on Amazon, because there's no time like the present to take a trip down the memory lanes of gaming history.
This holiday season, serious console gamers won't want to miss the chance to own both one of the hardest hitting next-generation consoles and one of the best game releases of 2016.
Having launched in 2013, the PS4 belongs to Sony's eighth generation of home video game consoles, carrying on the decades-spanning console wars with Nintendo's Wii U and the Microsoft Xbox One.
Looking under the hood, the PS4's hardware shares very little in common with its predecessors. Instead of building on the increasingly complex (and therefore costly, and burdensome) in-house Cell microarchitecture of its predecessors, the PS4 instead adopts AMD's cutting edge Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), which is built on x86-64 architecture.
At the time of the PS4's release, the APU was considered AMD's pride and joy, easily the most powerful APU they had developed to date.
Faster, Stronger, Better
Like other consoles in its generation, the PS4 was designed with online multiplayer and social networking capabilities in mind, as well as integration with other Sony devices and services. The product of this design is that the PS4 is able to play games off-console on the Playstation Vita, and even supported Sony Xperia mobile devices.
Through its built-in client software, the PS4 is also able to stream live gameplay online or to contacts on your friend's list, as well as controlling games remotely. And speaking of control, the PS4 features a redesigned controller that critics praise as vastly improving upon the PS3's design and response times, along with improved button and analog stick sensitivity, as well as an integrated touchpad.
The PS4's launch was heralded as a success by major gaming news outlets, which praised, in particular, the console's deliberate lack of restrictive digital rights management schemes that soured consumer opinions about the Xbox One before its launch...which praised Sony's lack of encouragement and support of independent game developers.
The 'Slim' model included in this package is a rebuild of the original console, featuring a more streamlined shape while compromising none of the power, performance, and online capabilities of Cloud saving and livestreaming to Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter.
The package comes with matching DualShock 4 Wireless controllers as well as a copy of the critically acclaimed cinematic, third-person Playstation exclusive Uncharted 4.
This gift giving season, the surprise sleeper hit on the list of top-selling game consoles on Amazon weighs in at a whopping 4.5 stars out of 5, an average score out of, at the time of this writing, over 120 customer reviews.
Now you might be thinking, it's gotta be something eighth gen for sure. Maybe the Xbox One? That's a likely candidate and not a console we've featured on this list just yet.
Or maybe it's a console that hasn't been released yet, like the new Nintendo Switch, and all the 'user reviews' are actually just fan hype? That's actually a very good guess, on one count, but doesn't quite take the cigar.
Are You Sure There Isn't a 'Super' In There Somewhere?
As it turns out, one of the year's best-reviewed console is in fact from Nintendo. But it's not the hotly anticipated Switch nor the 3DS, or even the Wii U, even though all three consoles are still going strong. It's the NES. That's right – the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
If you haven't heard, the console was recently officially republished on Amazon, after receiving some critical upgrades to bring it into the 21st century.
The revamped NES Classic Edition boasts easy plug and play functionality, and even comes with a standard HDMI cable, so you can relive your glory days on a widescreen with way more megapixels than you could possibly need to power through your favorite 8 bit adventures (yeah, I kinda don't get it either, but hey, if it lets me play stomp Goombas on the big screen, sign me up!)
The new old console comes pre-loaded with 30 games all installed and ready to play just by plugging it into the TV. However, and this is a bit of a buyer beware: you cannot insert your old cartridges into the console. You can play the 30 games that come preloaded onto the Classic, and only these 30 games.
One buyer points out that the housing gate on the console, where you'd usually flip open and expect to find the familiar plugin ports where you shoved in your cartridges, doesn't even open up: it's just there to maintain the classic look and housing of the old NES system. Its games are all internal.
Buyer beware, but not despair, however, as the 30 games roundup include some of the most memorable favorites of the generation. And they're full games, too, not just sampler helpings.
Titles include The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros 1 through 3, Mega Man 2, Final Fantasy, and more, including hard to find classics like Ice Climber, Kid Icarus, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
Back when these games were either new or just a twinkle in their designers' eyes, it was around the fall of 1985, October 18, to be exact, that the NES was originally released to an unsuspecting North American market.
By then, Nintendo had already made a name for itself in the arcade scene and wanted to bring gaming into the home. Interestingly, when we think of Japan, the typical North American assumption tends to envision the video game capital of the world to be a techno-futuristic utopia, but that's actually quite far from the reality of the 1980s.
Back then, 65xx CPUs weren't available in Japan, so the pioneers of game development at Nintendo HQ had to do all their programming on terrifyingly primitive NEC PC-8001s.
If you thought they had it rough, the graphic artists were the real trailblazers in their field, as all their pixel graphics literally had to be chiseled, stylus and stone tablet style, with a digitizer and LEDs on a grid, since there were simply no such things as software design tools for game development, at the time.
In spite of its many trials and setbacks, including slow initial sales and an early product recall due to a defective chipset, sales of the game console (released as the “Famicom” in Japan in 1983) eventually gained enough momentum to make it over to a skeptical American market.
At the time, the March 1985 issue of Electronic Games magazine stated that “the video game market in America has virtually disappeared” and preempts Nintendo's big budget console release as “a miscalculation.”
Of course, the doubters were proven wrong, and the rest is history.
Initially launched in 2005, the XBOX 360 has only gotten better with age. Actually, in the case of the 360, 'getting better with age' is a much nicer way of saying 'when it came out, this thing was infested with more bugs than the basement of a roach motel.'
Indeed, Microsoft's flagship entry into the cutthroat console market made its worldwide debut back in 2005-2006, but the much hyped about occasion was marred by the appearance of numerous device breaking bugs.
The most infamous of these was the 'Red Ring of Death,' so called because an internal hardware fault would cause the device to emit a series of glowing red lights that flashed on the face of the console whenever it powered up.
These red lights indicated a serious hardware failure, and attempting to start it up resulted in game freezes, corrupted save files, graphical glitches like checkerboard or pinstripe patterns, and other symptoms that indicated that you might've just shelled out for a very stylish paperweight.
Smaller console companies likely would've been dealt a mortal blow by such a bungle, but not so much the colossal heavyweight that is Microsoft.
By wisely issuing a blanket extension of two years to the manufacturer's warranty on all Xboxes, and then undertaking an aggressive and costly campaign of damage control, refunding and re-manufacturing, the 360 was, in time, able to fix its problems and rescue itself from the brink of catastrophe.
And it's a good thing, too. In spite of its problems at launch, the 360 has done a (fittingly) full-circle and turned its fortunes around, and has become a solid, stable console with frequent updates and an excellent roster of games.
And for a console, it's enjoyed a surprisingly long and prosperous career: for a total of 32 consecutive months, between January 2011 to October 2013, the Xbox 360 was the number one best-selling gaming console in the United States.
In fact, for most of its tenure, the 360 was only outsold for short periods at a time, coinciding with the launch of big name competitors like the Wii in 2008.
Part of the Xbox's success can be attributed to how attractive it was to non-gamers, who rightly used the console as a souped-up DVD player that, through its Xbox Live service, allowed instant streaming of online video from popular retailers like Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and HBO GO straight to their TVs.
Various iterations of the hard disk that powers the 360 have been produced over its long lifespan, the largest of which is the one in this bundle, at a whopping 500 GB.
Many accessories have also been developed, ranging from both wired and wireless controllers, customizable faceplates, headsets with microphones for online trash-talking, webcams, dance mats, and external memory units styled to match the console.
Most impressively, perhaps, much of the Xbox's hardware and software was made to be compatible with Windows operating systems: later generations of the console featured deeper integration with PCs running Windows, allowing easy file transfers of multimedia and game data, as well as Xbox Live online support.
360 hardware is also compatible with PCs running Windows; controllers and other peripherals plug in via USB connectors, and you can even use Xbox controllers to play PC Games (you'd still need an Xbox to play Xbox games).
The bundle comes with a month of Xbox Live Gold with exclusive discounts from the online store, a spacious 500GB hard drive, and the full game digital download of the critically acclaimed, ultra-realistic Forza Horizon 2, a solid open road street racing game set in Colorado.
Race a huge variety of cars (roughly 300!) in a setting grounded on realistic physics and glorious high definition graphic. Earn wristband currencies and street cred by driving aggressively and impressively, pulling off sweet drifts, surmounting obstacles, dual-wheelies, and general property destruction.
It's a solid buy at a surprisingly reasonable price.
By the hands of bothersome siblings, the jaws of bygone pets, or some other unfortunate quirk of fate, consoles always seem to go through periods of hardship, torture, and abuse that render them more than likely to break down over the course of years of ownership.
If you're a gamer 4 life, then you probably know what it's like to have a closet dedicated to old games, and no consoles to play them on.
The logical course of action, of course, might be to sell off your old games at garage sales or online on eBay, but let's be honest: can you really envision someone else getting their grubby mitts on your copy of Mortal Kombat?
And not that mamby-pamby one that came out for the SNES, the real arcade version of Mortal Kombat that only existed the Genesis, with the blood and guts and Fatalities. The one that you tricked your mom into getting you for Christmas in 1992 through a carefully honed strategy of fact omission and well-timed sucking up. That Mortal Kombat. No? I didn't think so.
Still, what are you going to do with those towers of old cartridges just mildewing away in the garage? There's a lot of awesome there, a lot of great memories of good times. But you can't relive these good times anymore, and you can't play great memories. Not without the original consoles on which to play your old games.
Or can you?
That's where the RetroN comes in. Not only does the RetroN win a spot on this year's highest rated console purchases on Amazon, but it also takes home the grand prize for Gaming Consoles We Never Knew Existed.
Made by a company called Hyperkin, the RetroN 3 is capable of playing 3 of the most popular consoles of previous generations: the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the SNES, and the Sega Genesis.
Even More Retro than Retro
Interestingly, a newer version of the RetroN, the RetroN 5, was released in 2014 and it supports games of up to 5 consoles (NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, Game Boy Color and GBA), but it doesn't garner as high a score among user reviews than the older RetroN 3.
Why is that?
After some research, it would seem that the RetroN 5 suffers from a multitude of hardware issues that bog down performance, at times preventing it from launching certain games for the Game Boy line. It apparently also lost marks for its bulky, unsightly appearance.
Its price is also double that of the RetroN 3, making older versions of the console that much more appealing.
The RetroN 3, on the other hand, wins high marks for its affordable price, more sleek and compact design, and easier no-frills installation; just plug the cables into any S-Video or Composite AV outlet, and you're ready to go.
A convenient, easy access dial allows you to switch between the three console displays without requiring any messy behind the TV wiring. The console comes with two brand new, 2.4 Ghz wireless controllers (15 ft. range) that are compatible with all three systems.
As an added bonus, controller ports are also available – two for each of the retro consoles it supports – allowing you to plug and play with your old school wired controllers, for that extra one-two punch of nostalgia.
Whether you're looking to try out a new console or just feeling nostalgic for the good old days of 8-bit, now's a great time to check out your favorite online retailers for game consoles. You might be surprised at what's back on the market!