Game streaming services
Credit: XBOX

These 5 game streaming services are the perfect last-minute presents for kids, including Xbox Ultimate, PlayStation Now, and Nintendo Online

Game streaming services are basically Netflix for video games, which makes them a gift that keeps giving.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Related Content

If there are little ones in your life, odds are they enjoy video games. I know I've spent my fair share of nannying hours watching Minecraft videos on YouTube or getting annihilated in Super Smash Bros. by kids 15 years my junior. Yep, many modern parents are all too familiar with their children's passion for gaming on the Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and even on the family computer. 

But the nature of video games has shifted in recent years. Like most forms of media, physical disks are a fading concept. Digital downloads are now the norm when buying new games, and game streaming services are the sum of all of gaming's best parts. They allow users to skip a trip to GameStop and download video games directly to their console. But game streaming services have much more to offer the passionate gamer than convenience.

What is a game streaming service?

To put it simply, game streaming services — or game passes — are like Netflix for video games. A fixed monthly payment grants you access to a library of hundreds of games ready for you to play on the spot; no additional payments necessary. So instead of dropping a whopping $60 on the hottest new game, children can spare parents the begging and pleading and simply download it. And given how much kids love to bounce between games, that's a pretty sweet deal for everyone involved. Game streaming services also offer parental control options, making it easier to monitor and limit the contents of your child's games. 

And they make great gifts, especially if you're looking for a quality present at the last minute. Stores like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart carry a healthy supply of game streaming services gift cards for various consoles. Plus, curbside pickup means you can likely get your hands on one within a day. They're also available as digital gifts, with your purchase conjuring a code that your recipient can cash in online or directly through their console. 

But game streaming services aren't one size fits all, because different consoles have their own versions of game passes. PlayStation Now provides a library of programs for PlayStation owners, while Xbox Game Pass Ultimate caters to Xbox users and extends to PC gamers (a.k.a. those who play on the computer). So if you're going to give a game streaming service as a present, you'll need to ensure that you buy one that coincides with the console the child uses.

Figuring out the right service can be daunting, especially if you're not familiar with video games yourself. That's why we've written this helpful guide to the best game streaming services so you can choose the correct one, whether the kids love to battle it out in Fortnite on the PC or race against friends in Mario Kart 8 on the Nintendo Switch. That said, things get a little more complicated when picking an Xbox game pass. 

Which Xbox Game Pass is right for my child?

While it's easy to understand that PlayStation Now is the go-to option for the PlayStation, Xbox game passes aren't as straightforward. There are multiple options, including Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and PC Game Pass. They share many features but differ based on your preferred gaming platform, so it's still important to buy the right one. We'll break down each of them below, but if you're still unsure as to which one to buy after reading, there are additional resources. Microsoft owns Xbox, and it offers free personal shopping appointments to help you pick the right product, games being no exception. Simply choose a topic, select a date and time, and you'll receive a Microsoft Teams video link for a one-on-one advising session.

Best 5 game streaming services that make great last-minute gifts for kids:

Here's a deep dive into the best game streaming services that make perfect last-minute presents for kids:

Game streaming services
Credit: XBOX

Best Game Streaming Service Overall: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

BUY IT

Compatible consoles: Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Windows 10, Windows 11

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate lives up to its name, combining Xbox Game Pass, PC Game Pass, and Xbox Live Gold into a unified video game streaming service experience. The result is access to over 100 high-quality games for Xbox consoles and PC that you can play online with friends. But it comes with much more, including an EA Play membership with games like FIFA 21, Madden NFL 21, and Battlefield V. But one of the better features is Xbox Cloud Gaming, allowing you to use controllers to play Xbox games on mobile devices and tablets, not to mention the ability to save progress in a cloud and resume on a different device. The fact that all of these components exist in a single gaming streaming service is nothing short of impressive, which is why we've deemed Xbox Game Pass Ultimate the best game pass on this list. 

Buy it! Xbox Game Pass Ultimate 3-Month Membership, $44.99 at bestbuy.com

Buy it! Xbox Series S Console, $299.99 at bestbuy.com

Game streaming services
Credit: Xbox

Best Game Streaming Service for Xbox Users: Xbox Game Pass

BUY NOW

Compatible consoles: Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X

Xbox Game Pass was just one component of the gargantuan Ultimate game pass outlined above, but it's still an excellent stand-alone game streaming service for those who mainly just play on an Xbox console. It's the source of the over 100 Xbox games available to members, with new games added often and no additional charge for downloads. You'll also have access to Xbox Game Studio titles like Halo Infinite on the day of their release for instant play. The catch is that it's only compatible with Xbox consoles, which means no PC gaming flexibility. But if Xbox is already your recipient's go-to gaming mode, then it's not that great of a sacrifice. In fact, for $10 a month, it's a pretty sweet deal. 

Buy it! Xbox Game Pass for Console 6-Month Membership, $59.99 at bestbuy.com

Buy it! Xbox Series S Console, $299.99 at bestbuy.com

Game streaming services
Credit: Sony

Best Game Streaming Service for PlayStation Gamers: PlayStation Now

BUY NOW

Compatible consoles: PS4 Pro, PS4, PS5, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11

Sony's take on the innovative game streaming service is PlayStation Now, offering owners of the console a vast library of over 700 compatible games. That large trove comes from PlayStation's archives, with games from the PS2, PS3, and PS4. These throwbacks and recent additions are all at your fingertips to play on the latest consoles and PC. That means kids can play the likes of Little Big Planet, Lego Batman, and Ratchet & Clank in up to 4K resolution. These games and more are available for both download and on-demand, making for an impressive, expansive, and flexible gaming library. You can also save your progress on one device and continue on another for seamless gameplay. Oh, and you'll have access to all available multiplayer modes, too. All of these features can cost as little as $5 per month. So if your kid has a PlayStation, PlayStation Now is a no-brainer. 

Buy it! PlayStation Now 12-Month Membership, $59.99 at bestbuy.com

Buy it! PlayStation 5 Console with 2 Wireless Controllers, $999 at walmart.com

Game streaming services
Credit: Nintendo

Best Game Streaming Service for Nintendo Switch Users: Nintendo Switch Online

BUY IT

Compatible consoles: Nintendo Switch Lite, Nintendo Switch

There are significant upsides and downsides to Nintendo Switch Online for the Nintendo Switch. The good news: It's the most affordable game streaming service on this list. The bad news: It's not exactly a game pass, at least not entirely. Nintendo Switch Online doesn't allow unlimited access to all games on the Nintendo Game Store. You still have to purchase individual games before downloading, and there's no streaming option. But there is one exception to the first rule. Members get a free blast from the past with access to original Nintendo and Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems programs for no additional charge. That means you can play the first editions of Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and many other classic games translated to the Nintendo Switch. It's a delight for both adults seeking a throwback and kids looking to explore where gaming first began. 

But more importantly, Nintendo Switch Online enables an online multiplayer feature so that Switch users can play with one another without relying on the same Wi-Fi network. That can significantly enhance the gaming experience, especially for young people who often play games socially. The Switch is the main console I use, and Nintendo Switch Online has been a great way for me to play games like Stardew Valley with my boyfriend when we're not physically together. Plus, at just $19.99 for a year's subscription, it's by far the most affordable game streaming service on this list. 

Buy it! Nintendo Switch Online 12-Month Membership Card, $19.99 at bestbuy.com

Buy it! Nintendo Switch with Neon Blue and Neon Red Joy-Con, $299.99 at amazon.com

Game streaming services
Credit: XBOX

Best Game Streaming Service for PC Gamers: Xbox Game Pass PC

BUY IT

Compatible consoles: Windows 10, Windows 11

Contrary to its name, you don't actually need to own an Xbox to use Xbox Game Pass PC. Rather, the game streaming service allows you to download and play Xbox games on a Windows-supported computer, even letting you connect Xbox controllers to a PC. Basically, the PC Game Pass gives you the best of both worlds with PC-specific games and Xbox favorites at a single fixed price. All you have to do is download the Xbox app to your computer to access the wide variety of available games, including popular titles with kids like Minecraft, Rocket League, Lego Star Wars, and more. And just like with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, there's also an EA Play membership thrown in the mix for good measure. But unlike Ultimate, you can't use Xbox Game Pass PC on an actual Xbox console. That said, given you'll have access to all its games anyway, that's not much of a sacrifice. So, if your child mainly plays video games on their computer, the PC Game Pass is likely your best bet for a great last-minute present. 

Buy it! Xbox Game Pass for PC 3 Month Membership Gift Card, $29.99 at bestbuy.com

Related content: