Although a few data are available regarding the impact of video games on energy intake (EI) in lean adolescents, there is no evidence on the effect of passive and active video gaming on food intake in both lean and obese youth. It is also unknown whether isoenergetic active video games and exercise differently affect food consumption in youth. In all, twelve lean and twelve obese adolescent boys (12–15 years old) had to complete four 1-h sessions in a cross-over design study: control (CON; sitting), passive video game (PVG; boxing game on Xbox 360), active video game (AVG; boxing game on Xbox Kinect 360) and exercise (EX; cycling). The exercise and active video game activities were designed to generate the same energy expenditure (EE). EE was measured using a K4b2 portable indirect calorimeter. Ad libitum food intake and appetite sensations were assessed following the sessions. AVG and EX-EE were significantly higher in obese participants and significantly higher compared with PVG and CON in both groups. Obese participants significantly ate more than lean ones in all four conditions (P<0·001). EI did not differ between conditions in obese participants (CON: 4935 (sd 1490) kJ; PVG: 4902 (sd 1307) kJ; AVG: 4728 (sd 1358) kJ; EX: 4643 (sd 1335) kJ), and was significantly lower in lean participants after EX (2847 (sd 577) kJ) compared with PVG (3580 (sd 863) kJ) and AVG (3485 (sd 643) kJ) (P<0·05). Macronutrient intake was not significantly different between the groups or conditions. Hunger was significantly higher and satiety was lower in obese participants but no condition effect was observed. Overall, moderate-intensity exercise provides better effect on energy balance than an isoenergetic hour of active video gaming in lean adolescent boys by dually affecting EE and EI.