Gaming can be an expensive hobby. New consoles cost hundreds of dollars, new games are sixty bucks a pop (even more in Australia and certain European countries), and accessories can bleed your wallet dry.
Yet there are some great gaming values available for only $20. Tightening your budget means you can’t have the latest and greatest, but you may be surprised what you can buy for a third the price of a brand new AAA title.
A headset is absolutely essential for any multi-player game that requires communication. While the best models are over $100, a basic USB headset can do the job for $20 or less. Alternatively, if you already have a decent pair of headphones, you can buy a microphone to compliment it.
Console gamers aren’t out of luck, either. A variety of Xbox headsets and PlayStation headsets are available for just a few bucks. You’ll only have difficulty if you’re buying for an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, as accessories for them are still expensive.
3-month Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus Subscription
If you own an Xbox or PlayStation device of any kind, and you don’t have a subscription to either of these services, you should buy one. Three-month plans for Live are $19.99 or less and PlayStation Plus is $17.99 or less.
Both provide access to multiplayer content, but that’s not the point. The real bonus is free games. This month Xbox is offering titles like Halo Reach and Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine free to Gold subscribers. PlayStation Plus, meanwhile, is offering Velocity 2X to PS4 owners, while PS3 owners get PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale. Both services add new free games every month.
Budget Gaming Mouse
Yes, you can get a gaming mouse for only $20 – and a surprisingly capable one, at that. The Anker Gaming Mouse offers 2000 DPI resolution, seven programmable buttons and user profiles along with LED color options and a six-foot USB cable. Alternatives include the XPS 3200, the Elekcity Scroll X1 and the TeckNet High Precision Mouse.
USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Large games can make storage an issue for PC gamers and mechanical hard drive access times are troublesome, too. You can resolve both issues with a USB 3.0 flash drive that expands storage and provides faster access times than a typical mechanical HDD.
Some consoles can use them, as well. Both the Xbox One and the Nintendo Wii U let gamers install downloaded titles to external storage. This feature is particularly useful with the Wii U, as it comes with no more than 32GB of storage from the factory. A cheap 32GB flash drive doubles its capacity!
Do you have WiFi? If not, it’s probably because you think it’s unreliable and slow. Times have changed, and while hardcore gamers might still prefer Ethernet, a good 802.11n WiFi connection is more convenient and just as quick most of the time. You can pick up a decent 802.11n router for only twenty bucks, and virtually all computers and consoles support WiFi, so now is a great time to upgrade.
Logitech F310 Gamepad
The Xbox 360 controller has become the gamepad of choice for PC gamers, but it’s still $30 or more. Thankfully, there’s a valid alternative in the Logitech F310. This gamepad is very similar in form and function to a PlayStation 3 controller, though it does lack rumble and motion sensors. You can grab it for less than $20 and use it with any Windows machine built in the last decade.
Classic USB GamePad
The F310 is a sweet deal, but it’s not the best choice if you’re playing retro-style games or emulated retro games. For that you’ll want something like the Buffalo Classic Gamepad or the Retrolink N64 Gamepad. The D-Pad and buttons on these controllers are well positioned for side-scrolling games and you won’t have dual analog sticks, which are almost useless in such titles, in your way.
Battery Charging Station For Console
Modern game consoles have provided wireless controllers for years now, but keeping the controllers charged can be a hassle. Most consoles provide no more than a single charging cable and the old Xbox 360 and Wii controllers rely on AA batteries by default.
There’s a ton of solutions available online for $20 or less. You can grab charging stations for consoles that have batteries built into their controllers and pick up lithium-ion packs for those which don’t. Not all of these packs and stations are less than twenty bucks, but most have dropped below that mark.
The PlayStation Eye was Sony’s attempt to add some features to the PS3. While still supported by some PlayStation games, I’m not recommending it for its intended use. Instead I’m recommending it as a general webcam.
You can pick up an Eye for $10 or less and use it with a Windows, Mac or Linux machine by downloading third-party drivers. Once you’ve done that you can use a program like FaceTrackNoIR to turn the PlayStation Eye into a budget face-tracking solution for simulation games. There’s also plenty of non-gaming uses; for example, you can turn your Eye into a security camera.
Used Game Console
The sixth-generation game consoles (PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube) are old enough that you can find them for $20 or less if you shop smart. I recommend avoiding Amazon in this case and instead heading to local sources like Craigslist, used game stores and thrift shops. These locations are a good place to find controllers for each console, too.
Once you have the used console of your choice go check out the respective top-10 list on Metacritic. Many of these games are only a few dollars on the used market and some of them, like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty are every bit as good as the games being released today.
As you can see, video gaming doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, and your dollar can stretch very far indeed if you’re wise about how you spend your money. Everyone wants the latest, but sometimes a budget alternative makes more sense.
What’s the coolest gaming accessory you’ve ever picked up on the cheap? Let us know in the comments!