Thinking about gifting your kids with gaming accessories? Between the many consoles available as well as PC, Mac and even mobile gaming, tracking all the available peripherals can be super confusing — especially for those not in the know.
We realize that each gaming console or platform frequently has its own peripherals to consider — and many are not compatible with each other. (In fact, this writer will soon be heading back to Best Buy to return the headset we mistakenly gifted for the first night of Hanukkah.) So, to help all you busy, hard-working parents make better choices, we got the goods on all the proper gaming accessories and peripherals for every type of setup.
Here’s everything you need to know before you invest in video gaming peripherals for the family this holiday season. From one (frustrated) parent to another.
Gaming systems generally range from a measly 32GB of storage on the Nintendo Switch to around 1TB for higher-end consoles and computers, but either way, your kids are going to fill them up quicker than you can say, “Tetris.” The simplest way to get around this for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles as well as a PC is to purchase a USB 3.0 external hard drive and plug it in directly (the Nintendo Switch uses microSD cards for extra storage). If you’ve been lucky enough to score a next-gen console, we’ve included the specific expansion products you’ll need for that as well.
Here are a few of the best products you can buy to add extra storage to any console or computer’s hard drive.
Best for PS4 and Xbox One: WD Black D30 Game Drive (starting at $89.99; amazon.com)
The WD Black D30 game drive starts at just 500GB and goes up to a 2TB version for $255. Obviously aimed directly at gamers, this drive offers super-quick read/write speeds. But anyone who may have snagged a next-gen console take note: No external hard drive can play games made for PS5 or Xbox Series X/S (see below for expansion options), but they can run Xbox One and PS4 titles while also storing your current-gen games for when you’re ready to copy them over.
Best for Xbox Series X/S: Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X/S ($219.99; bestbuy.com and walmart.com)
Got yourself a shiny, new, next-gen Xbox Series X/S? Congrats. However, the only way to expand its storage is with this Seagate Storage Expansion Card. Though it’s a pricey add-on, you’ll probably need the extra 1TB of storage at some point. And, thankfully, it’s simple to install. Just plug it right into the back of the console and away you go.
Best for PS5: WD_Black SN850 NVMe SSD (starting at $165, originally starting at $230; amazon.com)
Unlike the next-gen Xbox consoles, the PS5 is a little trickier when it comes to expanding its storage. You’ll have to physically remove the console’s cover, unscrew the expansion slot cover and mount an internal solid-state drive, such as this WD_Black SSD. It’s not brain surgery, but once it’s in, you’ll be thrilled with the extra 1TB of space to house games. You can also opt for a 2TB SSD for $320 (with a whopping 40% discount right now on Amazon).
Best for Nintendo Switch: Sandisk 400GB Ultra MicroSDXC UHS-I Memory Card ($50, originally $70; amazon.com)
The Nintendo Switch comes with only 32GB of internal storage, but it’s also a heck of a lot cheaper and easier to add on than the other consoles. 400GB is a whole lot of space to fill, but if the gamer in your life buys most of their Switch games digitally, they’ll appreciate the extra storage.
Best for PC and Mac gamers: SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2 (starting at $200, originally starting at $300; B&Hphoto.com)
This small, portable and yes, extremely rugged hard drive from SanDisk is compatible with Mac and PC as well as Xbox and PlayStation consoles. It also comes with an IP55 rating, so it can take a small beating and a 2-meter drop; plus, it’s water-, dust- and even shock-resistant, which makes us happy, considering the shenanigans we’ve witnessed during some hardcore gaming sessions. Not to mention it runs from a 1TB version all the way to the massive 4TB version, which even at $750 (with a $250 savings) is a popular option.
Keep it quieter with a gaming headset
During the pandemic, online gaming probably kept more kids socially connected than any other medium. After a day of dealing with online school and Zoom meetings, it was a joy to hear our boys chatting or talking trash with their pals, yet it was even better when they could do it over a headset rather than a live microphone or speaker.
A good gaming headset is a must for any online gamer, plus parents can always borrow it for video conferencing or as a basic home office tool. The main thing to choose from is a wired versus wireless headset, though if you decide on a wired version, you’ll need to make sure you get the correct model for either Xbox, PlayStation or PC (hence, our trip back to Best Buy).
Here are our favorite headsets for all types of online gaming.
Best for all platforms: Razer Kraken X ($30, originally $50; amazon.com)
For a measly $30, you can score this all-around winner from Razer — that’s a $20 discount from its original price. A perfect gift for any young gamer, and our best budget pick, the wired Kraken X offers the best sound quality for a lower-cost headset as well as long-wearing comfort and easy-to-use controls.
Best for Xbox: HyperX Cloud X ($60; gamestop.com)
This wired headset designed for the Xbox One and the Series X/S is both sturdy and affordable. We love its comfy padded ear cups and excellent microphone, but we also appreciate that it’s also compatible with the Nintendo Switch, PCs and even the PS4 and PS5. It also comes with a two-year warranty, which is worth it when you watch how beat up it can get in gaming battle.
Best for Sony PlayStation: Pulse 3D Wireless Headset ($99; amazon.com)
This Sony-built wireless headset offers a huge 12-hour battery life, comes in black or white and works with the PS4 and PS5. The Pulse 3D was created to hone in on the PS5’s immersive 3D Tempest AudioTech for all Sony’s first-party games, such as “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” and it comes with built-in mic monitoring so you can hear yourself talk over the action. The headphones are also a cinch to set up, which is always helpful.
Best for Nintendo Switch: SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless ($86.94; walmart.com)
A stellar wireless option for the Nintendo Switch, the SteelSeries Arctis 1 will give your gamers up to 20 hours of battery life on one charge and comes in a sleek, matte black design. The included wireless dongle can also be simply plugged into any USB-C connection, which means you can attach a USB-A or USB-C cable to it and connect it to a PS4, PC or Mac.
Best for PC Gaming: Logitech G733 Gaming Headset ($133; walmart.com)
Logitech is well known for its PC accessories and peripherals, so we were thrilled to see this wireless G733 headset specifically created for computer gaming. It comes in four different colors, including white, black, blue and lilac, and is both lightweight and simple to connect with a USB-A receiver. You’ll get up to 29 hours of battery life as well as support for DTS Headphone:X 2.0 surround sound.
Hyper Cloud Alpha S ($89, originally $130; amazon.com)
This is a great deal for the HyperX Cloud Alpha S, a high-end, wired gaming headset with a body crafted from lightweight aluminum and a headband and ear cups made of memory foam for extra comfort. Plus, they sound great and come loaded with a ton of controls to make it easy to change the volume and activate surround sound with the tap of a button.
An extra controller won’t hurt
Now that the kids are back to hanging out in person, or if you’ve got siblings to deal with, it’s worth upgrading their gaming setup with extra controllers. Of course, you’ll have to be sure to buy the right controllers for the right setup, so here’s what you need to know.
Best for Xbox: Nacon RIG Pro Compact ($40, originally $50; gamestop.com)
Though the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller is always an excellent buy for the Xbox One and next-gen Xbox X/S, and is currently on sale for $49 at GameStop, we’re going out on a limb to suggest this smaller, wired controller for little hands. The NaconRIG Pro Compact works with all the Xbox iterations as well as with PC, and in addition to its smaller form function and simpler-to-reach sticks and triggers, it also comes with a 3.5mm audio port for headphones and supports Dolby Atmos for a more immersive gaming experience.
Best for PlayStation: Sony DualShock 4 ($65; gamestop.com)
So, here’s the thing. We are going to guess that most readers have not yet scored a PS5 and will not be needing the shiny proprietary Sony DualSense wireless controller for $69, which only works on the next-gen console. So, we’re suggesting the extremely well-reviewed DualShock 4 instead, which includes a neato built-in mic, sensitive motion controls and super-ergonomic design. Plus, if you do have a chance to upgrade to PS5, you can still use the DualShock 4 to play PS4 games on the newer console.
Best for Nintendo Switch: Nintendo Switch Pro Controller ($55; walmart.com)
Get the gold standard Nintendo Switch controller for just $55 and you’ll get a meatier, feature-rich controller for more ambitious games. We appreciate that the Switch Pro Controller can be used with or without wires and comes with HD rumble, motion controls and can function with Nintendo’s Amiibo toys. You can also use it for Windows and Android gaming.
Best for PC gaming: Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro ($160; amazon.com)
Keeping in mind that the aforementioned Xbox Wireless Controller also happened to be one of the best PC controllers as well, we wanted to highlight the pricier, more feature-rich Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro for its super-quick response time and weightier build. Not only is it built to feel great in your hands, but it’s got a ton of extra buttons and triggers to mess around with.
A gaming mouse and keyboard make everything easier
An optimized keyboard and mouse is a must for PC gamers, though won’t help as much when it comes to console games. Want to get in on the action? Here are our top 2021 picks of best gaming mouse and best gaming keyboard.
Corsair Dark Core RGB Pro Wireless Gaming Mouse ($80; bestbuy.com)
The perfect mouse for the masses, this do-it-all gaming mouse from Corsair can be used with or without wires. It comes with eight programmable buttons, and its nine RGB lighting zones can be customized to glow however you see fit. It’s also powerful, quick and accurate.
SteelSeries Apex Pro Keyboard ($200; amazon.com)
This great-looking, fully customizable keyboard comes packed with adjustable switches and an OLED display that lets you customize RGB lighting for individual keys. A full-size, mechanical keyboard, we also love its combination of adjustable switches and intuitive companion app.
Subscribe and save with digital gaming subscriptions
Yes, you can still buy physical games, but the shift to digital services à la Netflix has been more apparent over the past few years. If you want to make it simpler for your kids to try a bunch of different games without plunking down the cash for each one, you’ll want to check out one of these top streaming subscription services — a perfect, and simple, holiday gift for younger gamers.
Best for Xbox: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate ($1/month, originally $15/month; microsoft.com)
Sign up for Microsoft’s streaming platform now and you’ll get an even better value this season. Xbox Game Pass lets you access over 100 downloadable games, which work not just for Xbox consoles but also on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets as well on Windows PCs.
Best for PlayStation: PlayStation Plus (from $60/year; playstation.com and amazon.com)
This online subscription service lets you play games online with PS4 and PS5, and offers several free games per month. The selection includes newer and older titles, including the pricier hit Bloodborne — and you even have access to VR games for the PS VR.
Best for Nintendo Switch: Nintendo Switch Online ($20 or $50/year depending on membership tier; nintendo.com and amazon.com)
For the lower-cost option, the Nintendo Switch Online subscription offers unlimited access to over 70 games, mainly on the classic side, like Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. However, go up a tier and you can now get the Expansion Pack, which also includes even more OG Nintendo 64 titles, including Mario Kart 64 and Sega Genesis games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Best for PC and Mac: Humble Choice ($99/year, originally $12/month; humblebundle.com)
This PC and Mac subscription service is an amazing value, and an even better one right now for $99 a year. You’ll get 10 free games a month, but unlike the Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo options, you won’t lose your games if you cancel the subscription. The one downside is that there is a curated collection every month, and if you don’t like the games, you’re out of luck. The good part is that you can cancel and subscribe at a later date, and you keep the games you already have.