15+ gaming MoneySaving tips & tricks

Including 'free' PS4 & Xbox games, 'free' retro SNES games on Nintendo Switch, and save up to £80 on consoles

With the country on lockdown, many of us need some escapism more than ever, and reports suggest there's been a rise in video game playing  I know that's certainly true for me. However, gaming can be expensive, with some consoles costing up to £400 and top-selling games around the £50 mark. Rather than console-ing yourself over the cost, load up this guide of 15+ gaming tips and tricks for Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox and more.

Each console comes with its own set of MoneySaving tips, but the general ideas are similar across them all. In this guide I'm covering games (both free and how to get 'em cheaper), plus how to save on consoles and online subscriptions, so this guide should be useful to you whether you've already levelled-up on gaming goods, or if you're a beginner.

Top tips include...

Free games

The most popular videos games rarely see discounts, but there are ways you can access a selection of decent games for free, no matter which console you own. Some are totally free, while others require an online membership – see more on online subscriptions below.

Free Nintendo Switch games including Pokémon Quest and Fallout Shelter

The Nintendo eShop, which can be accessed directly from your console, has over 40 games you can download totally free. A few examples include Fortnite, Tetris 99, Pokemon Quest and Fallout Shelter.

To find the free games:

  • Head to the eShop from your console and go to 'search' at the top-left of the screen.
  • Select 'Price Range' and scroll to the bottom, where you'll find the 'Free Download' section. 

How to get 'free' retro 90s SNES games, eg, Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong on your Switch

If you've a Nintendo Switch Online subscription (£18 a year or £3.49 a month), you can essentially go back to the 90s and add the classic SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) or NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) to your Switch for free.

Simply go to the Nintendo Switch Online section of the Nintendo eShop and you'll be able to download the SNES and NES options, which come pre-built with retro games including The Legend of Zelda, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Bros.

A Nintendo Classic SNES Mini Console costs about £80 to buy – if you can find one in stock – so if you've got a Switch and wanted some nostalgia, it could be worth paying for a Nintendo Switch Online subscription – see how to get it cheapest.

Free PlayStation and Xbox games every month with online subscription

If you pay for a subscription to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold (both £6.99 a month or £49.99 a year), you're able to download selected games for free each month and play them for as long as you have online membership.

It’s worth noting that PlayStation Store and Xbox Live aren't often the cheapest for games. However, even based on the cheapest prices elsewhere, in one month alone you might make up the £50 annual subscription in free games.

PlayStation Plus 'free' PS4 games

Normally, two free PS4 games are made available to PlayStation Plus subscribers each month. They’re free to download up until a certain date each month, then you can play and keep them for as long as you have an active PlayStation Plus membership. Here are May's free games:
Game Available to download PlayStation Store price
Farming Simulator 19 Until 1 June Norm £34.99
Cities: Skylines - PlayStation 4 Edition Until 1 June Norm £34.99
  • PlayStation Plus need-to-knows

    A PlayStation Plus subscription normally costs £6.99 per month, £19.99 for three months, or £49.99 for a year. To activate a subscription, you'll need to have a credit or debit card tied to your Sony Entertainment Network account, which will automatically renew your membership and bill you at the end of your term unless you cancel it beforehand.

    In addition to free games each month, PlayStation Plus gives you access to otherwise restricted features such as online gaming, 100GB of cloud storage, plus exclusive discounts on games in the PlayStation Store.

Xbox Live Gold 'free' games

Normally, three or four 'Games with Gold' titles are released each month – some are only available on Xbox One, while others are also playable on its predecessor, Xbox 360. The games are free to download until a certain date each month, then you can play and keep them for as long as you have an active Xbox Live Gold subscription. Here are May's free games:
Game Available to download Microsoft Store price
V-Rally 4 Until 31 May Norm £45.99
Knights of Pen and Paper Bundle Until 15 May Norm £15.99
Sensible World of Soccer Until 15 May Norm £7.99
  • Xbox Live Gold need-to-knows

    An Xbox Live Gold subscription normally costs £6.99 per month, £17.99 for three months, or £49.99 for a year. If you buy a prepaid Xbox Live Gold subscription (eg, at a supermarket or online retailer), you’ll receive a code to activate your membership, which will automatically expire at the end of your term.

    However, if you pay for an Xbox Live Gold subscription either on your console or PC you'll need to use a credit card, debit card or PayPal account attached to your Microsoft account, which will automatically renew your membership and bill you at the end of your term unless you cancel it beforehand.

    In addition to free games, Xbox Live Gold gives access to otherwise restricted features such as online gaming and in-game voice communication with friends, plus exclusive member discounts of up to 75% off games in the Xbox Store.

Free games for NHS workers

If you've an NHS email address (nhs.uk, nhs.net, scot.nhs.uk, wales.nhs.uk or England.nhs.uk), you could get a free video game code via the Games for Carers initiative. You'll be able to choose a PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch or mobile game. 

Games for Carers says there's currently over 85,000 games available to giveaway, so go quick if this is something you'd like. For more offers including food, fitness and wellbeing, see our round-up of NHS freebies & discounts.

  • How to get the free game

    • Enter your name and email address at Games for Carers to enter the giveaway.
    • Once you've verified your email address, you'll be able to browse the games and pick which one you'd like a voucher code for.
    • You can then redeem your code directly on your games console, mobile device or PC. There's no purchase necessary.

    See Games for Carers FAQs for full details.

Free mobile games, eg, Mario Kart Tour, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Call of Duty

If you're happy to play on your phone or tablet, rather than a console, then there are loads of games you can download for free. Take a look at MSE Sarah's pick of 31 free big-name games for iPhone or Android, including Mario Kart Tour, Sonic the Hedgehog, Call of Duty, Lemmings, The Sims Mobile, Harry Potter and more.

Save up to £80 on a console by avoiding extras you won't use

When you've decided which console you'd like to buy – PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch – there are a few extra things to consider, such as what memory you need and which version of the console. These extras can come with a hefty price tag, so it's best to figure out what you really need and what you can do without. 

Save money and gain memory buying the right PlayStation 4

There are currently two main PlayStation consoles on the market – PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro. Although you may still be able to buy a PlayStation 4 Slim or PlayStation 3 (though likely pre-owned), I've chosen to focus on the two main ones. The table below shows a quick summary of the basic prices of these consoles if bought on their own (and not in a bundle):

Storage Price
PlayStation 4 500GB £249.99
1TB £299.99
PS4 Pro 1TB £385
Prices of non-bundle consoles online at Game on Fri 1 May. Stock of consoles is low - some items above may be out of stock.

As you can see from the table above, there's a £50 price difference between the 500GB and 1TB PlayStation 4, and the only 'extra' that £50 gets you is 500GB more memory. If you bought the 500GB console and found yourself running low on memory, you can buy a 1TB external hard drive for about £45. Not only is this still cheaper than the 1TB console, but you're getting an extra 500GB of memory on top. 

The PS4 Pro is essentially an upgraded version of the PlayStation 4, with a much higher price tag. The main difference between the two consoles is that the PS4 Pro can run a 4K resolution. However, you'll only see the benefits of this if you've an HDR 4K TV and you're playing games that have been updated to support this.

Save £50 on an Xbox by ditching discs

Xbox also has a number of consoles that come with different storage options, plus an 'upgraded' console.

See the table below for an overview of the basic prices of these consoles if bought on their own (and not in a bundle):

Storage Price
Xbox One S 500GB £229.99
1TB £249.99
Xbox One S All Digital 1TB £199.99
Xbox One X 1TB £345
Prices of non-bundle consoles online at Game on Fri 1 May. Stock of consoles is low - some items above may be out of stock.

Compared to PlayStation, there's a much smaller price difference between the 500GB and 1TB Xbox One S consoles, so if you think you'll use 1TB of memory, it could be worth getting that console. Similar to the PS4 Pro, Xbox One X is the 'upgraded' version of the console, which has better graphics and more power. 

Xbox offers another console – the Xbox One S All Digital. This is the same as an Xbox One S, but doesn't have a disc drive. Instead, you'll need to buy and download games straight onto the console rather than buying physical copies. There are advantages and disadvantages to this:

👍 1TB storage space
👍 Only costs £200 (less than 500GB Xbox One S)

👎 Can't play DVDs or other discs
👎 Digital versions of games take up more space

If you think you could go all-digital, you could save £46 by buying the digital version compared to the 1TB regular one, so it could be worth considering this console. Remember, you can also add on additional memory with an external hard drive.

Go handheld and save £80 on a Nintendo Switch

There are two versions of a Nintendo Switch – the original console and the newer Nintendo Switch Lite.

The Lite version was released in September last year, and is just a handheld version of the Nintendo Switch. This means you can't dock it and play on a TV, take off the controllers and play in table top mode, and some games won't be supported. 

However, if you you think you'd be happy enough just playing handheld, you can get a Nintendo Switch Lite for £200 – which is £80 cheaper than the Nintendo Switch. 

Bundles can be cheaper

While I've just focused on the price of the consoles themselves above, it can often work out better value to buy a console as part of a bundle, which comes with a game or extra controller – although make sure that you don't end up paying for a game you wouldn't usually buy just because it looks like a good deal.

On Tue 5 May, I spotted an Xbox One S 1TB console with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order online at Game for £249.99 – the same price as the console on its own.

How to get online subscriptions cheapest

There are two types of online subscription services associated with consoles – the subscription that allows you to access online features (such as multiplayer with friends), and a subscription service for games.

Buying an annual subscription is considerably more cost-effective if you can afford it

As I mentioned earlier in this guide, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo have paid-for online subscription services allowing you to play online multiplayer games, get exclusive discounts and offers, and (for PlayStation and Xbox) free games to download each month.

The table below shows the cost of these subscriptions for each console:

Subscription Price and length
PlayStation Plus £49.99 / 12 months
£19.99 / 3 months (equiv to £79.96 a year)
£6.99 / month (equiv to £83.88 a year)
Xbox Live Gold £49.99 / 12 months
£17.99 / 3 months (equiv to £71.96 a year)
£6.99 / month (equiv to £83.88 a year)
Nintendo Switch Online £17.99 / 12 months
£6.99 / 3 months (equiv to £27.96 a year)
£3.49 / month (equiv to £41.88 a year)

While not an essential, many do choose to purchase an online subscription, as it allows you to play games online with friends and likely something we're all doing a lot more of at the moment as we can't play in person.

As you can see from the table above, an annual membership saves 40% for PlayStation and Xbox, and 57% for the Nintendo Switch – so if you know you'll use it for that long, and you can afford the initial cost, then an annual membership is much cheaper.

MSE Ant S, former MSE Dan C and I in a Mario Kart tournament last weekend

Compare short-lived deals at other retailers

You can buy a subscription straight from your console, or you can get gift cards or e-vouchers. These options can sometimes work out cheaper. For example, when I checked on Tue 5 May, you could buy a 12-month PlayStation Plus subscription for £39.85 online at ShopTo, saving over £10. So as with anything, make sure you check prices at other trusted retailers before buying. 

It's worth noting that whichever subscription you go for, this is likely to auto-renew, so remember to set a reminder if you don't want to continue.

Free trials

Nintendo Switch Online is currently offering a free seven-day trial, which you can cancel at any time to stop it from auto-renewing if you don't want to continue a paid-for membership. You can use it to get online multiplayer access to popular games such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I used my free trial to get online Pokémon Sword access, so I could trade with another player.

While there aren't currently any free trial options for PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, these do crop up every now and then so it's worth keeping an eye out.

Trick to get a year's Nintendo Switch Online for £3ish (normally £18)

Nintendo offers a 'Family' membership for £31.49 a year, though it can often be found cheaper at other retailers – on Tue 5 May we spotted access codes for £24.85 at ShopTo*. It allows you to add up to seven other accounts, all of which will be able to access online play and benefits individually. So, if you've more than one person in your household with an account it'll make it cheaper.

Here's the trick that MSE Rhiannon spotted – you add people to your 'Family group' via the email they've used to set up their Nintendo account. So technically, you don't have to live with the people in your family account... or even be family at all. So if you've seven friends and/or family members, you can pool together and get access for a year for £3.94 each if bought from Nintendo, or £3.11 each based on the cheapest price we found at ShopTo.

If you're the one buying the account, you'll be able to add and remove people as the admin. Even if there's only two of you that want online access, at the cheapest price I found it'll cost you each £12.43 – a saving of £5.56 per person on Nintendo's price.

PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass

PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass are game subscription services, where you pay a fee (eg, £50 a year) to access a catalogue of frequently-changing games for 'free', for as long as you have an active membership.

If you're a keen gamer and get through quite a few games, it can be worth buying a gaming subscription as even just playing a couple of games will have made up the cost of an annual membership. See how to get a free seven-day trial of PlayStation Now.

Here's how much each service costs:

Subscription Price and length
PlayStation Now £49.99 / 12 months
£22.99 / 3 months
£8.99 / month
Xbox Game Pass £49.99 / 12 months
£22.99 / 3 months
£7.99 / month

A few examples of games currently available on PlayStation Now include Doom, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus and Rocket League. On Xbox Game Pass, you can currently play Overcooked 2, Minecraft and Mortal Kombat X.

  • PlayStation Now further info

    It has over 700 PS4, PS3 and PS2 games on PS4 or Windows PC, with new games added every month. The games are yours to download and play for free while you have a valid subscription and go online at least once a week. Once a game is removed from the library or if you cancel your subscription, you'll no longer be able to play for free.

  • Xbox Game Pass further info

    It has over 100 games in its library, which it frequently changes. The games are yours to download and play for free while you've an active subscription. Once a game is removed from the library or if you cancel your subscription, you'll need to purchase the game to continue playing. When a game leaves the library, Xbox will offer you 20% off the game.

PlayStation Now seven-day free trial

PlayStation currently has an offer to get a free seven-day trial for PlayStation Now – great if you'd like to try it out and see which games you can play for 'free'.

Warning: If you don't cancel before the end of the trial, you'll be entered into a monthly subscription and charged £8.99/month. 

Trick to play Red Dead Redemption 2 for £1 on Xbox

Xbox Game Pass has an offer available on its Ultimate plan (new subscribers only), where you can get the first month for £1 (normally £10.99). The plan is a bundle subscription for both Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold. See 'More info' below for further details. 

From Thu 7 May, Xbox Game Pass will be adding Red Dead Redemption 2 to its library, meaning if you sign up for the 'Ultimate plan', you can play it for £1 for a month. The game costs £59.99 if you buy it from the Microsoft store, so this is a pretty decent saving. However, remember the game is only yours to play while you have an active Game Pass membership and the game is available in the library.

  • More info

    If you choose to cancel the 'Ultimate plan', you'll need to turn off recurring billing so that you're not charged for the following month. This can be done at any time and your subscription will expire once the remaining prepaid time has been used.

    If you've currently got a three-month or 12-month Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass subscription, these will be added onto your Ultimate subscription. However, your Xbox Live Gold subscription will be upgraded to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate edition. We've asked Xbox to confirm what happens with any remaining Xbox Live Gold prepaid months if you cancel the Ultimate plan and we'll update you here once we know more.

How to save on games

Once you've chosen your console and decided on any online subscriptions, you've then got the price of the games themselves to consider, with some of the most popular ones costing up to £60.

Sales on digital copies, incl Sims 4 for £5

There are two ways you can buy games – actual physical discs/cartridges, or digitally. There are pros and cons to both, but the biggest con to digital copies is that they take up more storage space on your device, so this is something you'll need to consider before buying too many digital games.

However, one of the pros to digital games is that consoles' online stores often have sale events where you can make some fairly good savings. For example, last month the Nintendo eShop had an 'up to 80% off' sale where you could buy Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for £7.49 (normally £29.99) and the rarely discounted The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for £41.99 (normally £59.99). 

PC gaming platform Steam currently has a Star Wars games sale until Thu 7 May, including LEGO Star Wars - The Complete Saga for £3.87 (normally £15.49) and Star Wars Battlefront 2 for £2.51 (normally £7.19). The force is strong with this deal.

Gaming website Eneba currently has a Spring sale, including The Sims 4 for £4.93 (norm £34.98), which is the cheapest I've ever seen it. You'll need to register for a free account to access the offer and download free gaming platform Origin to download the game. 

There are also websites such as CDKeys.co.uk where you can often find discounted games for all consoles. When buying online, just make sure you double-check you've got the right version of a game – don't do what MSE Becky did and accidentally buy the Polish version of Sims 4 – whoops!

Buying pre-owned

If you're not too fussed about having a brand new game, retailers such as Game and CeX sell pre-owned games for a discounted price. For example, on Tue 5 May I spotted Mario Odyssey for £34.99 pre-owned (£44.99 if bought new).

Do you have any MoneySaving gaming tips? What are you playing at the moment? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @MSE_Deals.