You can run pretty much any platform with these things in mind, but if I had to pick a great location I’d carefully look at the Xbox 360 Slim for super budget gaming – you can find it at a fairly low price, it has a huge library of decently modern games, and they will connect directly to a modern TV via HDMI. You can also check out the Nintendo 3DS, which has more games than you can shake a stick. If you want to go back even further, the PS2 has one of the biggest and best libraries in gaming history, but it’s a bit trickier to get to work on a high-definition TV. Or you can go with the buy-and-repair model for a last-gen PS4 or PS4 Pro, but it comes with a bit more risk if this is your first time attempting such a repair.
Remember, just because a platform is old doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer. Even though you owned this console when you were younger, you were probably a different age with different interests back then – so there is a whole slew of games that you might not have played yet. (I myself am exploring the Castlevania series, I never played it in my youth.)
Whatever console you buy, just make sure the controllers are in good shape before you fork out the cash. Some of the controllers used can be … rough.
Finally you could opt for a game streaming service instead of a used console, depending on how much you play. On a budget, Nvidia GeForce Now is probably your best bet, as it allows you to play games that you have bought from other stores (where sales are plentiful) and has a free tier that allows you sessions for an hour after waiting in a queue. After this hour has passed, you must re-enter the queue, but you can continue playing all night. As long as you have a decent enough Wi-Fi connection (or an Ethernet cable), this could end up being the cheapest way to play, as it will work on any PC you already own, which means that no additional hardware expense is necessary. Other services are also good, but can be more expensive—Shadow allows you to play games you own from any service, but with a monthly subscription of $ 12 +, while Google Stadia is available for free, but you have to buy games from their store.
Figure out what kinds of games you want to play and do the math on what the cost will look like in the long run, and you should find a platform that will work well for your needs – and hey, if you already have a PC, you should. You can easily combine an old console, free streaming service, and your PC’s built-in graphics to get the most out of all your options.
Track down cheap or free games
Buying hardware is, frankly, the hardest part – finding games to play should be a lot easier. Whichever platform you end up choosing, here are a few ways to get your hands on the cheapest games possible:
- Buy used records: Digital games may go on sale, but you are always at the mercy of what the publisher and the game store choose to charge. With Discs, you are free to haggle, buy games in batches, or wait for a screaming offer from someone desperate to Marie Kondo in her closet. Also, if you buy a used disc, you can turn around and sell it when you’re done. You can’t do this with digital games. (More on that in a moment.)
- Take classic games for next to nothing: Remember, there are probably dozens of classic games that you still haven’t played, and they can probably be had for pennies on a dollar. Stores like GOG offer loads of classic PC games, and source ports allow you to play some popular games (like Loss or Descent) with more modern controls. Thanks to a gift from Bethesda, I recently tried Daggerfall—The predecessor of modern Elder Scrolls games like Skyrim – for the first time (with some community mods for a better experience). You don’t even have to get super retro, you’d be surprised which games are playable on low power laptops.
- Fill up on free games: Free games are more popular than ever, especially on PCs. the Epic Games Store offers free games every week, while GOG, Ubisoft, and other stores sometimes throw away gifts. Sony is currently offers some games to encourage staying home. Bundles Pay what you want Humble Bundle and Itch.io may offer free (or nearly free) PC games, usually from independent developers. And free games can be a lot of fun too, but watch out for games designed to let you pay later (Rocket league is endless fun for $ 0, World of warcraft requires subscription once you reach a certain level). You may even be able to rent discs for free from your local library.
- Shop the sale on new games: Even if you shop well, the new games will be the most expensive of all, so that’s not my first recommendation. But if you’re determined to play Doom Eternal (and have the hardware to run it), a little patience can go a long way – it still sells for a high price in most stores, but it is. got as little as $ 20 during sales. If you can wait a year and track the prices using a tool like IsThereAnyDeal, you can get new games with big discounts.
- Get a cheap online subscription: Sony and Microsoft require subscriptions to their PS More and Xbox Live Gold services, respectively, to play online. But you also get a few games each month with your membership, and if you plan to play online anyway, it’s a good idea to set up a reminder every month to collect those games while they’re available. Oh, and don’t pay the list price for those subscriptions either: you can often find one year subscriptions for huge discounts, which makes it a much better deal.