It seems like an appropriate time for this question. Imagine if we hadn't basically won the console war. In fact, imagine PC gaming somehow just goes away completely tomorrow, and you have to choose a single console to take up instead for all your gaming needs. Which one becomes your mainstay?
If you could only play console games, which console would you choose?
Here are our answers, plus a few from our forum.
Alan Dexter: Don't ask me things like this! 2020 has been tough enough already. But go on, I'll play along. If PC Gaming suddenly went away you'd find me sat an empty desk wondering what else I should be doing with my life. Given that PC hardware is also my job, this would be doubly cruel. If PCs were still around, but weren't for gaming, you'd probably find me in a spreadsheet, or maybe I'd turn my hand to programming again. Maybe I'd invent something called gaming. This is cheating I know.
If I had to choose, I'd probably say the Switch, just because everyone keeps talking about Animal Crossing, and I want to see what all the fuss is about.
Graeme Meredith: Collecting Gamecube games has been a side obsession of mine for years. I've literally lost count of many I've acquired, from the original Animal Crossing to outdated—yet still active—MMOs to Japanese walking simulators. It was the first console I was able to buy on it's launch day, and as a 13-year-old, I was the exact intended audience. So my preoccupation with it is mostly based on nostalgia and sentimentality—but it does have a hugely eclectic, seemingly endless library and some of the weirdest accessories in gaming (bongo drums, the first gaming pedometer, a controller in the shape of a chainsaw etc.), which make it great fun to collect for.
It doesn't have the utility of a modern console, with a digital back catalogue and online cross-play ... but I've been squeezing joy from my cubes for almost 20 years and can easily foresee another 20, hypothetically or not!
Robin Valentine: I'd be really torn. PlayStation has so many great exclusives, and even comfortable VR in this dark new world where PC headsets have disappeared. Xbox doesn't really have any exclusives I'm into, but it does have GamePass, which is such a ridiculously good deal these days that I think it has to be a huge factor in your console choice. And then there's the Switch—to my mind it doesn't have the most impressive library of games out there, especially with how wonky some of the ports are, but in terms of the hardware itself it's probably my favourite console ever, and at this point I'd be loathe to give up that easy access to gaming on the go.
Lauren Morton: For a primarily PC player I've clocked a lot of console hours in my lifetime and we're a three-console household currently (plus all my old units), so I feel pretty confident I could choose. Right now, it would be a toss-up between the Switch and PlayStation 4 (soon to be 5, I suppose) depending on whether we're talking about the world as it is with exclusives or a dream world where I'm just choosing which device I like playing best. In the world of exclusives, I'd end up with a PlayStation. I've pulled it out for Horizon: Zero Dawn, Bloodborne, and now the Yakuza remasters. The same can't be said for the Xbox, which I rarely touch, nor the Switch, on which I usually play things like Stardew or Spiritfarer that are available on other platforms. If we're talking about which console I actually enjoy playing, it's the Switch hands down. I love the freedom to play Stardew on the big screen or share the couch with my partner in handheld mode while we catch up on a TV show in the background.
Wes Fenlon: Taking a slightly different approach to this question—if I could only play games from one specific console, I think I'd go with the PlayStation 2. Its library was just immense, full of games from Japanese developers across a wide range of budgets and styles, and because it was the dominant console of the generation, every cross-platform game was guaranteed to be on the PS2. 3D gaming was in its ugly duckling phase on the N64 and PS1, but generally looked and played much better by the early 2000s. Many PS2 games are still rough by today's standards, but there's also charm in that, and a tendency for quirky ideas to blossom into entire games that wouldn't get made today because they're too expensive. I'd definitely miss the availability of indie games and today's triple-A blockbusters, but I think the PS2 and its full library would keep me busy for a long time. That's my desert island pick.
Andy Chalk: Right here and now, everything else as it is but I wake up tomorrow and PC gaming doesn't exist? I think I just don't bother. I'll go outside. Plant some flowers, play with the dogs, sit under a tree and drink heavily, that sort of thing. I actively dislike consoles. But if Jody is giving me the stinkeye from across the room and I absolutely, positively must choose one, I'd probably go with the Xbox. PlayStation does have more interesting exclusives, as Robin said, but if I'm going to be stuck with a console then I might as well go all in and pay the 10 bucks per month for Game Pass too. At least that way I won't feel obligated to drop $80 a shot on games for the stupid thing.
Steven Messner: This is easy! The Nintendo Switch. It's the console I already play more than any other (maybe even the PC, too), and it's got loads of excellence indie games. You can enjoy it either on the go or plugged into the TV, and it's got some pretty stellar exclusives. I love my Switch.
Morgan Park: As someone that's only had a good gaming PC for a handful of years, console-only gaming is still fresh in my mind. I appreciate Steven's argument for the Switch, but it doesn't get all the games and good Nintendo exclusives are too rare. As much as I like what Microsoft is doing with Game Pass and the Xbox Series S/X, almost none of their exclusive games are my jam. I'd get the console where I can play the next Spider-Man, God of War, or Naughty Dog thing. It's that simple.
From our forum
McStabStab: When I'm out of town for work (doesn't happen much these days) I pack the Nintendo Switch for my gaming entertainment. I can sit on the plane and enjoy Resident Evil 4 or get in a few rounds of Tetris 99 before shutting off the lights in my hotel room. When I get home I can toss it in the dock and play Mario Party or Overcooked with my friends. Plus they're porting more and more games over every week including Divinity: Original Sin 2 and soon to be Disco Elysium.
drunkpunk: Since the only two consoles that ever interest me are the Xbox and Playstation, my response will pretty much only reflect those two options.
Sony has a lot of exclusives, but from what I can see and from what I've played they tend to be more "cinematic" than anything that offers real depth of gameplay. I also don't like supporting companies that pay for exclusive content, so that would be another strike for Sony. I do prefer the PS4 controller to the Xbox controller, but typically the PS controllers are also too small for me to use comfortably for extended periods of time.
Then again, I do tend to prefer the dashboard of the Playstation a lot more than the Xbox. I have not been a fan of the Xbox UI for quite some time. Comparing the current generation consoles, I also do tend to get better performance out of my PS4 than I did my Xbox One, and framerate is a really big thing for me, so that is a strike against the Xbox. But really, these are the only two things I can think of to go against the Xbox in my own preference.
So I think it would end up being the Xbox. Their games are generally more my style and more in line with PC games, which I guess is kind of a given since they've put a renewed focus on the PC market.
Zloth: Should I survive such a calamity with any sort of bank account intact then I guess I would get the big, new XBox.
Rensje: I think this would have to be my answer. I was going to answer Switch at first, but if I'm being honest that's just become my Zelda machine over the years. I don't really play anything else on it. Sure, it's great that you can take your indie games on the go, but I don't really play too many of those and some of the ones I do play are also available on Google Play and the App Store. Triple-A ports on Switch are.. not great. They're fun as curiosities for Digital Foundry to dissect, but they're not really that great to play and look like vomit on a nice big 4K set.
Playstation 5 is probably going to have the better exclusive games again, just like they did this gen, but I hate what the console looks like on the outside and I'm sorry, but that's relevant too. I don't want that over-designed, cheap looking hunk of space-age plastic in my home theater. Xbox Series X, on the other hand, is lovely and understated looking, like a subtle desktop PC with a beefy graphics card in it. It would look right at home under my TV and there's no denying that it'll be the most capable of the new boxes and the best value. The Xbox All Access program is an excellent deal and will give you a whole host of games to play without you having to buy a single game outright. It's not available here in the Netherlands but we'll gloss over that.
If I had to choose right now, Xbox Series X is the one I would have. Until a 4K-capable Zelda machine comes out, anyway.