The year is 2011; Bethesda has released Skyrim, Nintendo puts out two Zelda titles, and Valve publishes Portal 2. All in all, it was a pretty fantastic year for gaming. Now, in 2021, pretending like its 2011 is not only a fantastic way to forget about this absolutely dreadful year, it’s also a smart gaming strategy.
What I’m proposing is to ignore most modern games and game consoles and to spend your time and money on previous-gen systems. PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii and Wii U (yes, really); all of these consoles have great game libraries, and could provide just as much, if not more, enjoyment and entertainment than the games releasing today.
You will save a lot of money
In order to play the latest consoles, you, of course, need one of the latest consoles. The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S are notoriously difficult to find; if you’re casually browsing a department store’s tech page on and off, you’ll likely never find one in stock. Instead, you need to employ the use of tracking sites to alert you to new deals, or call around and see if any brick and mortar stores have the units in stock.
Sony even has a system that allows you to sign up for the chance to buy a PS5 during a specific window (imagine that, the privilege to buy a product). Even Nintendo Switches are becoming harder and harder to find. Once you do find one of these consoles, however, you have to pay full, current-gen price tags.
Now, consider getting into, say, the PS3. You can pick up one of these classic consoles for a fraction of the cost of a PS5, or even a PS4 (the latter is, surprisingly, very expensive to find online). Heck, you might even know someone who doesn’t use theirs anymore. That’s a major benefit with old gaming hardware; after a generation or two, many people tend to let those consoles gather dust in their basement. Maybe they’d sell it to you for a good price; maybe they’d let you borrow it for free.
Let’s continue the thought experiment, and turn to games. While new, unopened PS3 games are considered collectors items and command a high cost, used games are dirt cheap. You can experience gems like The Last of Us for $10, Dark Souls for $9, and Uncharted for $5. Even a sealed copy of GTA V on PS3 goes for only $20 on eBay.
When you buy games for current systems, you tend to spend a lot. Sure, there are deals and discounts (especially on Steam), but brand new, AAA games often charge $60–70, long after a game comes out. Nintendo, for one, hardly drops the price on its main-stays; while Breath of the Wild is currently on sale through Amazon, Super Mario Odyssey costs $50, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe still charges $60.
You can learn from the past
Since modern gaming is so expensive, many of us lean on reviews to guide us through the buying process. Of course, pre-orders and early access ensures that we invest in a game before knowing whether or not it’s really worth our time and money.
You don’t have that problem when you’re a generation or two removed. The games released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 (or the PS4 and Xbox One), have been played, reviewed, and revisited many times over. It only takes a simple search to find best-of collections, which is an excellent place to start your journey. While these lists are not the end-all-be-all, they can be an excellent starting point to find the best games for your Wii U, or to launch your experience with collecting for the Xbox 360.
Sometimes games that were overlooked upon their release gain a following and respect over time; other times, games that were lauded didn’t actually age all too well, and might not be the best place for you to start or to spend your money. Coming in late affords you the opportunity to let these scenarios play out, so you get the best of both worlds.
The games out today will always be there
I love saving money, and I love having great historical advice on what to play first, but above all, it’s comforting to know that these games will all still be here whenever I finally get around to playing them. There’s no need to track down and pay full-price for a PS5 right now; I haven’t even played all my PS4 games!
I’m not saying you have to wait 10 years to check out the PS5; even one generation removed can make either the console, the games, or the entire package a much more affordable experience. Of course, some of us will always want to be on the forefront of what gaming has to offer, and that’s fine! For those of us who have a huge backlog of classic games we haven’t even started yet, however, it’s perfectly reasonable, in my view, to choose to live in the past.