We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Kids and adults alike love video games — especially first-person games. But there’s a significant drawback to spending all day sitting in front of the TV playing video games. Put simply, you’re sitting in front of the TV all day.
Video games are fun to play, but they don’t force you to use your muscles or burn fat. To recreate the excitement of a video game in the physical world, consider a laser tag set. With laser tag, you’ll be running and exercising, but you’ll also be enjoying the exhilaration of an action-packed game.
Because we at BestReviews don’t accept free samples from manufacturers, you can trust our reviews. We aren’t influenced by equipment suppliers and manufacturers. The time we spent researching specific laser tag guns and sets has given us plenty of insight into the market. (And we’d be lying if we said studying laser tag sets wasn’t one of the more enjoyable shopping guides we’ve put together.)
Please check out our laser tag set shopping guide, below, and the above product matrix for some great information.
If the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the term “laser tag” is a Star Wars-like laser cannon that melts objects, think again. Commercial-grade laser tag sets are safe to use. The beam won’t harm players, other people, or other objects in the area.
Rafe Needleman has been testing and writing about technology products for over 20 years. He has evaluated hundreds of products as editor of CNET and reviews/editorial director of Yahoo Tech.
The laser gun is usually a piece of plastic that houses a beam generator. The plastic is molded into the shape of a gun with a trigger mechanism that activates the laser.
Most laser tag guns are easily carried in one hand, like a pistol. The electronics and computer chips needed to keep score or record data are included in the gun, too.
Finally, many laser guns contains sound, tactile, and light effect capabilities. These features are not only cool, but they also give you feedback when you make or receive a hit.
With the right laser tag set, you can pry the kids away from the TV and get them moving around. You may even end up joining in on the fun.
A sensor unit measures when a laser light strikes it. With at-home laser tag sets, the sensor is usually included in the gun. If you were to visit a laser tag arena, you would be given a vest or a chest plate that contains the sensor. This is not always the case with at-home sets, however.
Most at-home laser tag guns use infrared lasers. You won’t be able to see this type of laser light. Therefore, you’ll want to select a laser tag gun that has a sight on it to ensure accurate aiming.
Back when infrared laser tag sets initially appeared on the market, consumers complained of inaccurate readings and a beam that was too wide. However, the technology has improved a lot in the past decade. Infrared laser guns now work extremely well.
Most at-home laser guns use infrared lasers which cannot be seen. This makes aiming correctly a challenge.
Because the guns and sensors are portable, they run on battery power. Most at-home laser tag sets require AA or AAA batteries, often four per gun. (If you’re using laser tag equipment at an arena, the guns there probably will use rechargeable battery packs.)
Understand that if small children will be using the laser tag guns, they almost certainly will burn through batteries quickly. That’s because little ones are likely to press the trigger over and over, not caring what they hit. Older players are likely to aim more and press the trigger less, consuming less battery power.
A set in our matrix that offers superior battery performance is the Best Choice Kids Laser Tag Set. It’s also our Best Bang for Your Buck winner.
Laser tag guns will use batteries in a hurry during continuous play. Using rechargeable AA batteries is a good way to save some money over the long run.
Durability is often a drawback with at-home laser tag sets. Many of the guns available for home use are constructed of cheap plastic with little weight to them. If a player bangs a gun into objects or drops it continually — which can happen in this type of game — the gun could malfunction.
Young children aren’t exactly known for their care with toys, so don’t be surprised if your guns break occasionally. You could spend a bit extra to receive a gun made from stronger plastic. But even strong plastic won’t protect a gun that flies out of a running child’s hand and crashes into a tree.
If you’re new to laser tag gaming, here’s a quick primer on how to play:
For a long time, the most common way to play laser tag was at a business that provided all of the equipment and the game area.
These arenas still exist today. Perhaps your child has attended a birthday party at a laser tag arena, for example. You pay to play there (meaning you rent the equipment), and the arena provides a scoring system and the game rules. Arenas can have extensive setups, including multiple levels and/or realistic battlefield scenery.
Make sure the area in which you’re playing laser tag is free from stray objects to prevent tripping.
When you play at home, you obviously provide your own equipment — such as the products in our matrix. You can play outdoors or indoors, but be advised that some laser guns work better than others in bright sunlight. Most offer a few different gaming options, but there will be less versatility with at-home equipment than at an arena.
No matter where you play or what game you pick, the goal is always the same. You want to strike the opponent’s sensors with your gun’s laser.
You could hide behind objects to ensure your sensor isn’t struck. In most games, however, the more aggressive player is rewarded. (In other words, striking another player is worth more than what you lose when you are struck.)
After receiving your laser tag equipment, test it immediately. One of the biggest complaints purchasers have is faulty equipment out of the box.
Most at-home laser tag gun sets will keep score for you. That means there won’t be any arguments about whether a player was hit! Each time the gun’s sensor is hit by an opponent’s infrared laser beam, it records that fact. Lights on the gun alert you to how many times you’ve been hit.
Once you’ve maxed out your number of allowed “hits” during a game, your laser gun will stop working.
Laser tag guns come in a variety of colors. But when determining teams, the color of the plastic on the gun doesn’t matter. Teammates are determined by the settings on the gun.
In a single player game, it’s every person for themselves. The laser tag system awards points when you hit another player’s sensors, and it deducts points when your sensor is struck. Whomever scores the most points before time’s up is the winner.
This is a common game option at pay-to-play laser tag arenas. In another game variation, each player has a specific number of “lives.” Whichever player has the most lives when time expires wins. Or, alternatively, the last player with lives remaining wins. This elimination-type game is common for the type of at-home laser tag set we’re discussing here.
You can play laser tag in teams. In this type of game, only the shots that strike opposing team members count.
Team gaming variations include “Protect the VIP,” in which each team picks one VIP to protect from their opponents’ shots.
Other simple team games can involve a scoring or elimination system, as described in the Single Person section above. All team members’ scores are added together to determine a winner.
Feedback in a laser gun set is important for knowing when you’ve recorded a hit or been hit.
Laser tag and paintball are both first-person shooting games played in an arena or field. But being hit with a laser beam in a laser tag game doesn’t cause pain. Being struck with a paintball projectile can cause small welts.
Laser gun beams can travel a much farther distance than a paintball pellet. Furthermore, laser tag isn’t messy — but paintball certainly can be.
Laser tag sets for teenagers and adults will need more gaming setting options to keep them entertained.
Both of these games are first-person shooting games. An airsoft gun fires round pellets made from plastic or a biodegradable material. An airsoft projectile doesn’t leave a mess on the skin or clothing after striking a target, so it’s similar to laser tag in that respect. (Some airsoft pellets are coated in a powder that leaves a residue when it strikes a target.)
But unlike the painless strike from a laser tag, an airsoft projectile can leave a welt on the skin. Furthermore, airsoft pellets aren’t biodegradable; they must be collected after the game.
A few laser tag sets include targets you can use for practice or solo play.
Q. How much can I expect to pay for a laser tag set?
A. For basic sets you’ll use at home — guns with no extra sensors — you can expect to pay $25 to $35 per gun. Sets with extra games and features can cost between $35 and $55 per gun.
If you’re also buying a set with a separate sensor, you can expect to spend another $15 to $40 per sensor. You’ll also incur the ongoing cost of replacement batteries, which can add up fast.
Q. Over what distance will a laser gun work?
A. The accuracy and distance of at-home laser guns varies among models. Advanced laser guns may be able to record a hit across 100 feet or more. Cheap laser guns may only work accurately over 30 or 40 feet.
If you’re playing in nighttime conditions, you should enjoy more distance and accuracy than in daylight conditions.
Q: Are the lasers safe to use?
A: Laser tag guns use low-power lasers that do not harm people. Many laser guns made for at-home play use infrared lasers; the technology is similar to that of a TV remote control.
Q. What are the biggest dangers with at-home laser tag?
A. If injuries occur during laser tag, it’s primarily because players are running and they trip. If you’re setting up a laser tag game at home, make sure the playing field has boundaries. Remove any stray objects that could pose a tripping hazard. And understand that children will naturally want to run when playing this game. As such, playing inside the house can be dangerous.
Q. What are some of the extra features of laser guns?
A. The features on most at-home laser guns are pretty simple. However, you will notice that some guns offer tactile feedback, such as vibrations, along with lights and sounds. Kids love the lights and sounds that accompany these guns.