These are your best options for getting started with the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game!
Both the Starter Set and the Essentials Kit are excellent products, but which one you pick up first will depend on what you are looking for in an introductory D&D product. In brief:
The Starter Set is excellent for people who want to jump right into D&D with minimal setup, board-game style.
The Essentials Kit is perfect for people who want to create customized characters and be more involved with building the story that these characters bring to life.
Both of these gaming desires are equally valid and awesome, but will ultimately determine which D&D product is right for you.
If you've played D&D before, or want to continue adventuring after purchasing the Starter Set or Essentials Kit, your next step is either the Player's Handbook or dive right into the gift set – with all three core books and a Dungeon Master's Screen!