Lucky enough to find a shiny new game console under the tree? Don't get too crazy just yet. Unlike your action figures, you can't just rip it out of the box and start playing with it immediately. Well, you can, but you won't really be playing it correctly.
Before you start zoning out in front of the TV, take a moment to make sure you've got the gear to get the most of our your newfound gaming experience.
Nintendo Wii Extra Controllers
Unlike the Xbox 360 and PS3, getting an extra controller or three really pays off on the family-friendly, party-oriented Wii. Chances are, your brand-new Wii is only packed with one remote and Nunchuk, and that just won't do.
The new standard Wii remote -- dubbed the Wii Remote Plus (Nintendo; $39.99) -- comes with built-in MotionPlus support and in a variety of colors. Though you won't need a new Nunchuk attachment (Nintendo; $19.99) for every game, it's a good idea to pair one up with each new remote to be safe. In general, first-party controllers (ones made by Nintendo) are the way to go.
But if the Wii will be mostly in the small hands of younger children, you can also look for good third-party solutions like the Power-A Pro Pack Mini (Power A; $49.99), which bundles a remote and a Nunchuk tailor-made for smaller digits.
The Wii isn't a high-def machine, but you can make the basic image look significantly better by hooking it up using the official licensed component cables (Nintendo; $29.99) instead of the included composite cables. The 480p signal won't take down the PS3's 1080p images, but does make Super Mario Galaxy 2 a much prettier experience.
1GB SD Card
You'll find no shortage of SD card options (Various; $19.99 and up) to expand the Wii's storage capacity, and with holiday sales many will be available for a bargain. With the added flash memory you'll be able to store more Virtual Console games and saves.
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Buy | Search)
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Buy | Search)
- Monster Hunter Tri (Buy | Search)
- Kirby's Epic Yarn (Buy | Search)
Playstation 3 Extra Controllers
They might be less necessary here than on the
Wii, but if you have any inclination to play a co-op game on your PS3, grab an extra DualShock 3 Wireless controller (Sony; $49.99) pronto.
The PS3 is a hi-def machine, so provided you've got an HD set, be sure to pick up an HDMI cable for the PS3, as Sony doesn't include one in the box. With the cable, you can get the highest possible resolution from the system. Shop around, too, as prices can be inflated, and a $10 cable (Mediabridge; $9.99) is just as good for most users as the crazy ones priced at $100 or more.
Congrats -- your PS3 doubles as a Blu-Ray player. While you can control playback just fine using a game controller, it's a bit awkward. If you're serious about movies, consider snagging the official Sony remote (Sony; $24.99). It can double as a controller to navigate the console's menus, and a set of batteries will last months, even under daily use.
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Buy | Search)
- Red Dead Redemption (Buy | Search)
- Gran Turismo 5 (Buy | Search)
- God of War III (Buy | Search)
Xbox 360 Extra Controllers
Like the PS3, picking up a spare controller for the 360 depends a bit on your needs. There are hordes of great co-op games for the system, though, so be proactive and grab a new one (Microsoft; $49.99).
Alternately, you can save some bucks on batteries by picking up a Play and Charge kit, a rechargeable battery system that can be bought with ($64.99), or without ($19.99) a new controller.
Xbox Live Gold Membership
If you own an Xbox 360, you owe it to yourself to experience it the way it was intended by going Gold. Sure, the free Silver membership offers access to the Marketplace, which features demos, movies and all sorts of downloadable game goodness, from incredible Xbox Live Arcade games to Xbox Originals like the first Halo. But the paid Gold membership enables online gaming, which for most players is what the system is all about. It currently goes for $59.99/year, but you can find all sorts of more affordable deals out there.
Plenty of online games let you voice-chat using the console's included headset, but you wind up doing a fair bit of typing, too. Consider grabbing the Chatpad (Microsoft; $29.99), which plugs seamlessly into the base of any 360 gamepad. The keys have a good feel and are responsive for lightning fast texting and chatting.
- Mass Effect 2 (Buy | Search)
- Red Dead Redemption (Buy | Search)
- Halo: Reach (Buy | Search)
- Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition (Buy | Search)