PS2, GameCube, or XBox?
December 6, 2004 7:32 PM   Subscribe

Well, the time appears to have finally come. With my kids starting to cross over the 10 threshold I am on the verge of caving in on the gaming console issue. As a kid who wanted an Atari 2600 but got a TI-99/4a it took me a while to realize that gaming consoles are now pretty much part of the background recreation matrix/social experience of kids and not an extravagant extra. Anyway, they get good grades and I wound up working for a while as a game programmer and it did not kill me.

So parenting aside, I was wondering if anyone could suggest some good sources of information on the three major platforms (XBox, GameCube, PS2). The kids told me that their friends mostly have PS2s and that they like the GameCube, but I just want to make sure that, say, in February the next generation of platform hardware won't come out and they stop production of titles for what we get. FWIW their tastes are Backyard sports games, Civilization 3, and Hobbit/Harry Potter type games -- but they remind me that playing those and Zaxxon on the family PC do not a gaming system make. Oh, and there any must-have accessories that we should take care of up front? Cheers.
posted by cgk to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total)
PS2 has, by far, the widest variety of games. GameCube is pretty much directly targeted at kids the same age as as yours. XBox skews older, toward high-school and college-age gamers.

XBox has about 12 months to live -- XBox 2 is widely expected to be announced in January for a fall launch in time for next Christmas. PS3 and the next-generation Nintendo console (code-named Revolution) are not expected until mid-2006 at the earliest.

See also this previous thread.
posted by jjg at 7:50 PM on December 6, 2004

The majority of GameCube games are oriented towards kiddies. The PS2 has more games overall, but many of them are chaff, filler titles with no real value. The XBox pretty much has, um, Halo 2. And some kind of centrally administered online gaming service.

Kids that age might appreciate the ability to plug their GameBoy into the GameCube, and enjoy the greater selection of kiddie titles, but by and large the PS2 offers more flexibility in software choice.

But they're all pretty much the same: underpowered 3D hardware with extremely limited memory that forces game designers into simplistic "unlock more stuff" gameplay. You won't really go wrong picking any of the above, and most of the triple-A titles are ported to all of them.
posted by majick at 7:51 PM on December 6, 2004

xBox or PS2. Nintendo, bless them, have screwed up the GameCube. It's cute but a lot of games have issues on the GC that they don't have on other consoles. We have an xBox, but there are cool games, like Katamari Damacy, that make me wish we had a PS2 instead. Unfortunately, I'm not, not, not, having two consoles. We PC Game enough as it is. Good luck!
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:51 PM on December 6, 2004

Seriously? Ask them, or their friends. I bet they know exactly what they want.

My 17-year-old says he is not aware of a new console coming out, although he does not claim to be an expert. With their age, GameCube is best; the other consoles are geared more toward teen/young adult (i.e., graphic violence). Windwaker (in the Legend of Zelda series) is a very interesting adventure game that my 14 & 17-year-old still enjoy, but has very kiddie-fied, non-graphic violence.

My sons started with N64, then my younger son saved his allowance and bought a GameCube, then later an X-Box.

Must have accessories: Extra controllers. If you get PS2 or GameCube, memory cards are a necessary to save data.
posted by Doohickie at 7:54 PM on December 6, 2004

(The Zelda series should appeal to the Harry Potter/Hobbit taste.)
posted by Doohickie at 7:57 PM on December 6, 2004

I have all three and most of the previous posts cover the key points:
* Gamecube skews towards the youngest
* XBox skews towards the oldest
* PS2 has the most games

One idea: ask the kids to name the 10 games that they enjoy playing the most at their friends' houses and go with that system.

Some games are on all three systems, others are specific to a single system. If you are looking at a game that is on PS2 and XBox, the XBox version tends to be better. is a good place to find out what platforms a given game is on, as well as read comparisons between different versions of a game.
posted by kreinsch at 8:09 PM on December 6, 2004

I love my GameCube. I primarily got it because I'm a long-time Nintendo loyalist and a Zelda fanatic, but there are lots of good games, suited to both adults and children, out there for GC (I just finished The Hobbit, which was wonderful and probably suitable for most kids, and I'm currently playing the new Prince of Persia, which is buggy, but awesome, and NOT suited for younger kids), but certainly far fewer than for the other systems (that said, look around at games and see, I've found very few games which are unavailable for GC which I really wanted to play, more games available doesn't necessarily mean there will be more games that you want). Mind you, I also tend to like one game at a time for the most part, others' MMV. For my money, having played a PS2 and briefly played an X-Box, the controller for the GC is far superior for most games, but this really boils down to personal preference and past experience in a lot of ways, I can't stand the PS2 controller at all, and the X-Box one isn't much better, but I grew up with Nintendo controllers, all of which seem to have morphed out of each other.
posted by biscotti at 8:13 PM on December 6, 2004

The best source of information is your kids. Ask them which one they'd prefer and get that one.

They're all about the same price; Gamecube is a bit cheaper but not really enough to matter. Odds are the real contest will be between PS2 and GC.

All of them will have games for the next several years, none of them will have new games in 10 years; I wouldn
t fret about obsolescence with any of them.

Both the PS2 and the XBox can, AFAIK, be used as dvd players. If you don't want your kids having free access to a dvd player, get a gamecube.

Wireless controllers rock.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:32 PM on December 6, 2004

Skip the video game console and hook them straight onto World of Warcraft on the PC. You'll never need another game or a babysitter ever again. ^_^
posted by krisjohn at 9:18 PM on December 6, 2004

If you can't ask your kids which they'd prefer, I would throw in my vote for Gamecube.

First off, everyone pretty much agrees that a bulk of their games are targeted toward a younger audience. The better Playstation and X-Box games are almost all rated Mature.

Second, Nintendo hasn't been releasing as many games for GC as I remember for N64 or SNES. As a parent I would see this as a very good thing since they won't be begging for the latest release every third week. If you're worried about the system becoming obsolete, they've announced another Mario game as well as the latest god-like Zelda sequel. For those two alone, I'd buy the system, but you also have the Pikmin and Viewtiful Joe games and hopefully others they have yet to announce.

The problem with GC, though, is that it really isn't that popular. In terms of sales, it really is trailing both X-Box and PS2. I'm not sure the figures among 10 year olds, but I personally don't know more than 3 people with a GC, but every guy I know has a PS2. I have no idea how much this matters in your decision or in your kids' preference, but it sort of sucked for me to be this huge fan of Viewtiful Joe and not have anyone else know what I was talking about.

Oh, and the wireless controllers do, in fact, rock.
posted by SAC at 9:21 PM on December 6, 2004

We have a Gamecube, and it is a lot of fun (my son is 6). He has around 10 games (all purchased used for a fraction of the regular price - NEVER BUY NEW GAMES!!), and his all time favorite is the "Sonic Heroes" collection, which ironically collects all the 16 bit Sonic Games from the Sega Genesis.
posted by Quartermass at 9:21 PM on December 6, 2004

I'm going to go against Gamecube. PS2 has the BEST games available, most resouces, and accessories. It won't take long for your 10 year-old to turn to sports games like Madden, and Grand Theft Auto -- which, although available on other platforms, are best on a PS2.

If I had a kid right now (I'm only 21), I'd be getting him a PS2. Oh and you'll need two controllers, and one or two memory cards.

(Unless he's a Zelda/Mario Party fanatic).
posted by ruwan at 11:44 PM on December 6, 2004

The GameCube is fine however I would recommend one of the new compact PS2's. I think there are some difficulties sourcing these at the moment in some areas because of pre-christmas demand however.

First of all the PS2 DVD has a parental lock. I have used my PS2 as my primary DVD player with no problems.

The PS2 has an incredible range of "greatest hits." Their backlog of games is easily available and cheap. There is a lot of innovation and quality in their releases and I believe they have the best platform games this generation.

Buying near the end of a generation isn't all bad, games are plentiful and cheap, the consoles themselves are cheap, and the sheer popularity of the PS2 and backlog of games makes it a good investment.

The eyetoy for the PS2 seems to be really popular with kids.

Oh yeah, seems obvious I know, but also a memory card if there isn't one as part of the deal, and give each child their own differently colored controller.
posted by lucien at 12:10 AM on December 7, 2004

I have a gamecube and ps2, i dunno, gamecube titles are definately fewer, but they are better quality in my opinion. Sure there is the occasional Gran Turismo, but for a 10 year old I think games like pikmin, mario party, paper mario, animal crossing, metroid prime are fun. They are generally much less violent as well. PS2 does have some really really good RPGs though which would probably be appropriate for kids if they like that sort of thing. When I was a kid though I certainly knew the one i wanted, and would probably have been somewhat upset if I got the other console for the same price. So my advice is ask them, or at least feel around for their preferences if this is a surprise.

My reviews should be tempered with the fact that I think first person shooter games are complete garbage, which I accept places me out of the mainstream.
posted by rhyax at 2:23 AM on December 7, 2004

Hey, I have to deal with these things for a living.

For a kid that age it's gamecube, hands down. And, as a parent, I think if you decide to engage in multiplayer gaming with your kids (why not?) you're going to find the gamecube games generally easier to handle with much less learning curve.

Some of my personal favourites that are probably good choices for kids (I don't enjoy a lot of "adult" games -- too little thought seems to go into them!): Pikmin 2, Animal Crossing, Super Monkey Ball, and, saving the best for last, Smash Bros Melee (Don't be worried about the "T" rating, I'd give it to any kid over 4 years old to play. There's NOTHING offensive in it at all).

For multiplayer, you might want to consider any of the party games.

The PS2 sucks for multiplayer because out of the box it only supports 2 controllers.

As a side benefit, I find most gamecube games around here priced slightly lower than their non-gamecube counterparts. I think the lack of popularity of gamecube probably does that. One other "benefit" with gamecube is you won't be worrying about the kids playing inappropriate online games with others. It includes no network port, and there's only about 2 networkable titles out there for GC, anyways.
posted by shepd at 2:52 AM on December 7, 2004

the general consensus amongst the video game nerds i know go like this:

nintendo - get the gamecube if you're looking for fun,QUALITY games for the adult or kid.

ps2 - large library, great for RPGs

xbox - for fighting games, online play with fps games. no one else is doing online play right.
posted by lotsofno at 3:41 AM on December 7, 2004

Toss the money into upgrading their PC so it is decent for PC gaming. A little bit more memory, maybe a two or three generations old video card...

Unless your kids are hardcore button mashing fighting game addicts, really into platformers, have a love for the weird genre-less twitchy games that turn up more often on consoles, or are great fans of the Japanese RPGs... Most genres are better on the PC.

However, they won't have the ability to sit next to each other and play against each other unless you put two computers next to each other.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:50 AM on December 7, 2004

I also vote Gamecube. Nintendo's first-party titles for the GC are simply second to none -- even a grown-up like me enjoys the hell out of Mario Party and Mario Golf, etc. The four controller ports (and games that support them) also make it a more social system.

Second choice would be PS2, since there's a ridiculous amount of software for it (remember, it can play old PS1 games too). The only games I can think of that are really worth getting a PS2 for, however, are Grand Theft Auto (not for kids) and Katamari Damacy (great kids' game).

I should also warn that PS2's hardware is rather shoddy -- they tend to break pretty easily.
posted by neckro23 at 5:21 AM on December 7, 2004

I ? my GameCube, and my son loves it as well. Basically, there are younger-geared games, obviously, and you get all the Mario games as well, which are great fun. There are a few games that I enjoy playing on it, especially party games, but I did break down and buy a PS2 recently, mostly for Katamari and GTA San Andreas.
posted by adampsyche at 5:37 AM on December 7, 2004

I'd have to throw my vote to GameCube. One of my favorite things to do is get the family together for a round of Mario Party (the new one comes out tomorrow, woo hoo!). My 9-year old stepson's favorite GC game is probably Super Smash Brothers Melee, and he likes Tony Hawk 3, which can be picked up for cheap. Games we all have enjoyed playing include Pikmin, Super Monkey Ball, Ty, and Super Mario Sunshine. All the games in that list can be picked up for under 20 bucks each. Also, count another vote for the Wavebird Wireless controller.
posted by Otis at 6:09 AM on December 7, 2004

The Gamecube doesn't have GTA, which is probably a good thing from a parent's perspective. (From my perspective, I bought an XBox to fix that.)
posted by smackfu at 6:39 AM on December 7, 2004

As a parent with a seven-year-old and owner of all three major consoles, I'd also vote for the GameCube. Nintendo doesn't make "kids games", they make family games.

I play the same Gamecube games as my son. On the XBox and PS2, most of his games are obnoxious, and I have to wait until he's in bed to play most of the stuff I like.
posted by Eamon at 7:34 AM on December 7, 2004

Really late, but another vote for GameCube. I play it constantly and didn't even notice when one of the pet rabbits bit through my PS2's AV cable due to the fun I was having with Paper Mario and Pikmin 2.

The GameCube will last long enough for your kids to grow up and get paper routes in order to buy whatever next generation console they want.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:56 AM on December 7, 2004

On a related note:

What's the deal with no retailers having PS2s in stock? This is the biggest shopping season of the year and I can't find one of the most popular game consoles around anywhere? WTF Sony???
posted by MsVader at 9:45 AM on December 7, 2004

MrsVader, speaking as a salesperson, we get shipments in, and then sell out fast. Consoles are big sellers right now, and they probably can't keep up producing them to meet the demand. (Aren't all the companies losing money on consoles anyway? Maybe they don't want to meet demand...)

Also, for a 10 year old? Gamecube. No question.
posted by graventy at 11:43 AM on December 7, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the responses, it was a big help to hear from all of you.
posted by cgk at 2:54 PM on December 7, 2004

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