I have a lot of hobbies that take up most of my spare time, but few are as purely fun as video games. Books and movies help me escape the monotony of my day-to-day and let me live vicariously through different characters and their plights. Games do the same thing, plus the methods to be an active participant. They're a collection of art forms—music, visual art, writing, and more—that are greater than the sum of their parts.
While I used to play games on my PC, now most of it is done via my Xbox. Yeah, yeah, some of the "hardcore gamers" out there might mock and deride gaming on a console, but it fits my lifestyle just fine. Gone are the worries about whether or not my graphics card can handle the latest game. Gone are the fickle mouse/keyboard controls (I know they provide better accuracy, but a controller just feels better, okay?). Gone are the quiet, nagging voices that my monitor isn't big enough.
If you ask me, console gaming is where it's at—the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch. It's hassle-free, easy to use, and is perfect for casual or dedicated gamers. So, whether you're in the market for your first Xbox or just want to upgrade your current setup, here are my recommendations for the must-have accessories.
1. A 4k-capable console to play games on
First things first, you're going to need a console to play on. Whether you're looking to get your first Xbox or just want an upgrade, I'd recommend spending the extra cash and getting the Xbox One S. The size difference alone makes the One S a vast improvement over the basic One.
While the upgrades aren't super drastic, the Xbox One S supports HDR (High Dynamic Range) and doubles as a 4K Blu-ray player—something the PS4 Pro doesn't do. The One S can also upscale your games to 4K, and offers a general boost to performance across the board. This particular bundle comes with the console, "Battlefield 1," one month of EA Access, a controller, a 4K HDMI cable, the power cable, and a 14-day Xbox Live Gold Trial—all for $240. Trust me, that's an incredible deal.
2. A controller good enough to make you a pro
Any Xbox console you buy should come with a wireless controller already, but it's always good to have a spare. If you're in the mood to upgrade your setup, I'd invest in the Elite Wireless controller. As my good friend Lee points out in his excellent write-up, the Elite controller is a must-have for anyone who's serious about their games. The value stems from the ridiculous level of customization the Elite controller is capable of. If you need more convincing, consider that your controller is the one accessory you're going to use every single time you play a game. Spending a little extra for a better experience is well worth it.
Alternatively, you could head to the Xbox Design Lab and customize the color scheme of your controller to add a personal touch to your gaming setup. The build quality is a step up from the $45 basic controller, while still not quite hitting the levels of the Elite Controller. It might cost around $80, but for a chance to completely customize your controller, that's not a half bad deal.
3. Crystal clear audio from a headset that fits like a dream
I spent a lot of time reviewing and testing headphones which has given me a unique perspective when it comes to picking out the headphones that I'll use. Anyone who enjoys their video game hobby should immerse their ears in directional tracking, crisp high, and deep bass. Trust me, a good audio experience can make or break a game for you.
After testing some of the top performers on the market for a look at the best headphones for Xbox One, I came away with a new appreciation for the Razer Kraken Pro V2. The price point is just right (enough to know you aren't buying a cheap bit of plastic, but affordable enough to not break the bank) and the performance was spot on. With peerless mic quality, incredible sound, and a design that's easy on the eyes, the Kraken Pros are clear winners (even if they were designed with PC gamers in mind).
4. Somewhere to store your video game collection
Depending on which console you've decided to get, you might need to consider picking up an external hard drive to help store all of your games. You could obsessively manage your storage and delete whatever game you're not currently playing—which is then helpfully saved to the cloud and ready to be downloaded again when you want it, saved data and all—but who has time for that?
Instead, a hard drive like this one from Western Digital can safely store all of your games and keep them ready to play at the drop of a hat. It doesn't matter if you haven't picked up your copy of "Witcher 3: Wild Hunt" in months (guilty), it'll be there ready and waiting. Of course, this is slightly complicated if you pack up and travel with your Xbox frequently. But, if you keep it tucked snuggly in your entertainment center you won't have a thing to worry about.
5. A remote to browse movies when a controller just won't do
Before I share some of my favorite games, I'd be remiss not to mention the Xbox One Media Remote. While you could opt to donwload the Xbox app—from iTunes or Google Play—to give you second screen control of your console, a dedicated remote can go a long way to in terms of convienience. For starters, you won't have to worry about connecting to the internet, then connecting to your console, then waiting for the app to load the correct screen.
Instead, you have a pretty simple and generic remote that'll let you control your apps, Blu-ray movies, Netflix, TV power, and volume. The keys even light up automatically so you won't have to squint in the dark when you just need to pause your movie for a quick bathroom break.
6. My Top 5 Games
1. Overwatch on Amazon for $40: My go-to game since it launched back in May 2016. Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer FPS that pits you and a team of five others against another team of six to complete an objective. With an incredibly diverse cast, a surprisingly engaging story, and the endless fun of playing online with close friends, it's easy to see why Overwatch won Game of the Year in 2016.
2. Titanfall 2 on Amazon for $19: The first Titanfall revitalized the first person shooter genre by injecting speed into everything you do. Gone were the sluggish shufflings of a foot soldier. Instead, you played a pilot armed with a jetpack that lets you wall-run on a map filled with zip lines. Oh, and did I mention the giant robot mechs you control? Titanfall 2 improves on its predecessor with the addition of new movement options (grappling hook, anyone?), new loadouts and Titans (those are the giant robots), and a campaign story that has one of my favorite missions in a game ever.
3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on Amazon for $40: I hardly have the stamina for an role-playing game that could literally take hundreds of hours to finish. And yet, here I am 60 hours into Witcher 3 with no signs of slowing down any time soon. The amount of worldbuilding, care to story and dialogue, and impressive game design on display here is absolutely staggering. Feel free to leave this world behind and enter a fantasy realm like Game of Thrones—except this time, you're a willing participant.
4. Abzu on Amazon for $18: Much like the 2012 hit from thatgamecompany, "Journey", "Abzu" is a more artistic meditation than an action-packed thriller. With a beautiful score from composer Austin Wintory, it's easy to lose yourself as you gently swim through an ocean of vibrant color and charm. Take it from me, there's no better way to relax after a long day.
5. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood - $14.99: A family-friendly action-adventure platformer that's fun, lighthearted, and just plain silly. You play as Max, a young boy who travels to another world to save his younger brother Felix from Mustacho and his minions. Luckily, you'll have a magic marker to help you manipulate the environment and defeat the evil lord.