Christmas is going to be a little weird this year; let’s not make it worse by waiting until the last minute to buy gifts, especially if you have to buy them online. Shipping speeds normally get a little worse than usual during this time, and with coronavirus restrictions still squeezing everyone thin, it may be even worse for 2020’s holiday season.
If you need help buying gifts for gamers, we’re certain these recommendations will have you doing a barrel roll right into your very own special corner of their heart. Whether they’ve upgraded to the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 or decided to stick it out with the older consoles, these recommendations are wholly applicable and usable for their console of choice. We also have gift suggestions tailored to Nintendo Switch owners and PC gamers, as well as games the whole family can enjoy. Check it out!
Word of warning: Our list is a little light on actual games, but our friends at Kotaku have drawn on their collective eons of gaming time to present the best games for Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and more.
Ring Fit Adventure | $80
With a Ring-Con that looks like Xena’s circular sword and a leg strap accessory, Ring Fit Adventure is a gift the whole family can enjoy. Your goal is to explore your surroundings and bop baddies in the head along the way, your only controls being several workout moves jogs, high knees, and squats. Especially if you’ve found it difficult to keep your workout-at-home sessions spicy, Ring Fit Adventure can cause all your motivation to come rushing back.
For the first time, Nintendo gamers require a premium subscription to play online. Thankfully, it doesn’t cost much at a standard $20 for twelve months, and you get great benefits like access to classic Nintendo games, cloud saves, and members-only deals.
If the Nintendo fan in you doesn’t already have one, you have to get them a Nintendo Switch. It’s quickly become Nintendo’s most beloved console thanks to its pick-up-and-play-anywhere nature. With a truckload of fun games both old and new, there’s something to play for everyone, and this pastel green-and-blue Animal Crossing special edition featuring the Nook clan is perfect for those planning to emigrate for island life.
SanDisk MicroSD Card | $26
This is the time of year many gamers regret not squaring their storage needs away sooner. It’s not an expensive endeavor to add more, so tell your recipient to stop deleting and redownloading games and just pack it all into one of these SanDisk microSD cards. Dressed for the occasion, this 128GB card features Toad on a Mario red plastic casing for $26. There’s also a yellow Mario Star model available in 256GB for $52.
You absolutely should be paranoid about protecting expensive things, especially daily carry-out electronics and handhelds like the Nintendo Switch. A carrying case gives you both safe and stylish transport for not just your console, but any other games, memory cards, and accessories you want to take with you. This adorable PowerA case has a sturdy handle, dual zippers, and all your favorite Animal Crossing characters for companionship on the road. Oh, and this one fits both Switch and Switch Lite.
For the gamer who’s seen it all, virtual reality is a great way to inject fresh blood into an old hobby. Compatible with both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, the PlayStation VR headset transports you into 3D worlds from an entirely new perspective. Get it bundled with Iron Man VR if you want something high-quality to try out of the box.
At this point, a PlayStation Plus membership is almost mandatory. Included with your time is a monthly dollop of games, online play, exclusive deals, and cloud saves, that last bit being especially important for PS5 gamers who want to preserve their saves as it’s the only avenue for doing so.
You can’t install PS5 games on it, but no matter which console you’re on, this portable Seagate Game Drive holds tons of PS4 games with a 4TB capacity. This USB 3.0 drive has plug-and-play functionality with no external AC to deal with, so it’s easily throwable into a bag for a quick getaway weekend.
With a brand new PS5 in hand, your recipient will surely want to stock up on games. A $75 PlaySation Store gift card is just enough to buy any game they might want—whether that’s one price-hiked next gen title or several cheaper alternatives. The gift card is also usable on add-on and video content, such as movies and TV shows.
PlayStation Classic | $80
Look, I get it: new consoles are here, and the original PlayStation isn’t getting any younger. But nostalgia is worth its weight in gold, and with a PlayStation Classic, you’ll get an abundance. It comes pre-loaded with 20 of the console’s best and most iconic titles, including Final Fantasy VII, Wild Arms, and Tekken 3. There are two controllers in the box for some couch multiplayer. You might be bummed out that it doesn’t support your old memory cards, but with a virtual replacement, that might be a blessing in disguise for those prone to losing small objects.
With Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you get online multiplayer, free monthly permanent game downloads on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, access to hundreds more in Game Pass as long as you keep the subscription, and exclusive deals and perks. Even if your loved one isn’t much of an online gamer, an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription will have them drowning in quality games from day one.
Pro gamers can’t deal with the default buttons on the standard Xbox controller, oh no no no no no. They need extra paddles on the back, interchangeable thumb sticks and directional pads, and adjustable hair triggers. How else will they pull off the infamous 360-no-scope-Halo-jump-lean headshots? The Xbox Elite Series 2 controller—the next level of what many consider to be the best controller in gaming—has all of that (and more) for the sweatiest of sweaties.
Unlike the PS5, those planning on buying the Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S can use external hard drives to store all of their games from all generations. The WD_Black series is made for the cause with serious chassis aesthetics and solid, reliable Western Digital performance. This 5TB USB 3.0 hard drive powers itself, so don’t worry about finding extra outlets.
The Xbox Series X and Series S continue the Xbox tradition of preferring AA batteries for power. You can always stuff a Play and Charge Kit back there, but with high capacity AA Eneloops, gaming sessions stretch a lot further before it drains. Getting back to 100% is just a quick pop-and-swap if you buy this 4-piece Panasonic kit with an included wall charger.
Seagate Expansion Card 1TB | $220
A $500 console purchase probably doesn’t leave much room in the budget for the 1TB Seagate Expansion Card, currently the only solid state storage solution that takes full advantage of the Xbox Velocity architecture. That’s what makes this the perfect gift for someone who just upgraded to the Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S. At present, this is the only hard drive that performs just like the internal storage, which supports lightning quick loading speeds and hot swapping between multiple games without losing progress.
Aukey Gaming Desk | $180
Known best for its audio products, Aukey enters the gaming arena with a sizable desk, the length of its feature set stretching nearly as long as the 45-inch carbon-textured surface. RGB lights with up to six possible colors accent the black construction, and with niceties like a cupholder, headphone hook, and cable management holes built in, anyone can appreciate the utility this desk provides. It’s strong enough to hold 330 pounds of equipment, and our own Ignacia Fulcher has used it long enough to be confident it won’t send all of that crashing to the floor.
GTRacing Gaming Chair | $170
I plopped my butt right onto one of these GTRacing gaming chairs. It was used, mind you, but still wholly comfortable even with my brother’s butt groove messing up the standard cushion profile. This heavy duty model covers a wide variety of gamers with a 350-pound weight limit and a nice wide bucket seat. It also has reclining, rocking, adjustable arms, and a footrest, all important components for your virtual movie nights on Kast.
If you’ve ever heard a gamer scream at the TV, chances are lag ruined their killstreak. Whether for your sanity or theirs, a powerful router can help eliminate some of the interference that causes stutters, jitters, and disconnects. With some games ballooning to 100+ gigabytes in size, having the fastest download speeds possible is also important. This Wi-Fi 6 router by TP-Link has the latest in wireless technology, including eight high-gain antennas, beamforming, OFDMA, and MU-MIMO, all managed by a fast quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. That’s a lot of strange terminology, but know these features facilitate adding more devices to your network at the fastest speeds with the furthest operating range and much more reliability than previous generation routers.
LG 27UK850-W 27″ 4K Monitor | $450
Whether they’re on console or PC, many gamers prefer playing on monitors. There’s been an explosion of 4K gaming over the past couple of years, so if they aren’t already pushing pixels to their limit, your giftee will quickly come to appreciate one. This 27″ LG monitor is one of the best in its ranges. The IPS display comes through with a respectable 5ms response time in Game Mode and over a billion possible colors.
The wide color gamut makes way for DisplayHDR 400 support, which delivers a bright lifelike picture. Your gamer bud will wonder about its refresh rate, and though that’s capped at 60Hz, they’ll at least dodge ghosting and screen tearing with AMD FreeSync’s wizardry (in supported GPUs and gaming consoles only). There’s a height, pivot, and tilt-adjustable stand, plus tons of ports on the back for peripherals and device hookups, including USB-C.
Asus TUF 15.6″ Gaming Laptop | $1,000
While many aren’t traveling right now, those who do might still be interested in a gaming laptop. Even if it’s just for Christmas break at grandma’s, a gaming laptop offers a fix away from home for one of the most popular pastimes. This Asus TUF gaming laptop has one of the fastest processors available in the AMD Ryzen 7, and more importantly, the RTX 2060 inside is one of the latest mobile GPUs. It’s not the most powerful graphics card available, but with a 1080p resolution gracing the 15″ display, that’s all you’ll need to play most of the latest games on high. The battery lasts around six hours in most situations—right in line with most of its kind—and an included 512GB SSD will load Windows and all your games with lightning quickness.
Astro A50 Wireless | $300
I’ve used several Astro headsets since the Xbox 360’s red ring days. I try tons of headsets, actually, but I always seem to come back to the wireless flagship A50 line. The latest is a beast of a headset with a powerful-but-balanced sound signature. It really pushes the bass, but not so much that you can’t hear all those important ambient sounds and conversations in your games. The microphone is super clear, your gaming sessions can go for 15 hours between charges, and you can set your own custom EQs in the PC app if the default presets aren’t doing it for ya.
There’s also the base station where the headset sits to charge. That’s cool on its own, but the best part is that it has optical and line audio routing making it usable with almost any device or sound system you have. The headset works with PC no matter which model you’ll get, but PlayStation and Xbox players require different versions. Check with your beneficiary to see which they have before purchasing.
I love the Logitech G502, and so will the person whose stocking you’ll stuff with it. This ambidextrous mouse glides effortlessly on any mouse pad with great precision thanks to a 25,000 DPI HERO sensor. Ergonomics is entirely subjective, but I’m not alone in postulating the G502 as a golden standard in that regard. And with the ability to customize any of its 11 buttons and adjust RGB colors and effects through the Logitech G Hub app, there’s no shortage of ways to make it your own. If you really love your loved one, upgrade to the wireless model and pair it with the ultra-luxurious Logitech G915 wireless mechanical keyboard.
Mayflash F500 Arcade Stick | $130
Although it pays to get comfortable with a controller for fighting games (that’s what the pros use), nothing beats an arcade stick for ultimate freedom and precision. With Sanwa buttons and joysticks, it offers the same premium actuation you’ll find at the local arcade cabinets. And we like this Mayflash 500 unit for one big reason: it works with almost everything, including PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Android, Nintendo Switch, NEOGEO mini, and Sega Genesis mini. There’s no way the Mortal Kombat addict in your family won’t appreciate this.
Don’t look now, but mobile gaming is kind of a big deal. If you’ve noticed your friend can’t look away from their phone with two hands clutched at all times, they’re probably playing something that would be much more fun with PowerA’s MOGA XP5-X Plus mobile controller. It has a built-in battery to charge the smartphone, almost a necessity given the excess battery drain from the processor kicking into high gear. The smartphone clip that holds your game is removable, and thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, that means it’s also usable as a wireless controller on PC.
Hyper QuadCast Gaming Mic | $140
Whether gaming or streaming, a quality microphone is key. With four polar pickup patterns, built-in gain control, and a tap-to-mute function, the HyperX QuadCast can get pretty close to your ideal acoustics without having to touch a single piece of software. This mic was purpose-built for all sorts of gaming scenarios. Look to its customizable RGB lighting for evidence of that. It comes with a dedicated desk stand, but you can attach it to an articulating arm if you want, and there’s also a built-in pop filter and shock mount to keep the phonetic nasties out of the final mix.
Oculus Quest 2 VR Headset | $300
VR was hard to buy early on for those with tiny spaces or slim budgets, but with the Oculus Quest 2, those barriers have all but vanished. This standalone VR headset offers a whole new perspective to play a growing list of hundreds of games, and you won’t need to tether to anything unless you want to play PC-only games, facilitated by an optional Oculus Link cable. Otherwise, you can take it out of the box and jump right into hot games like Job Simulator immediately. (Don’t laugh. Job Simulator actually SLAPS!)
Toys & Board Games
Every house needs a good chess set, I’m convinced. Whether a newcomer or grizzled speed chess veteran, this deluxe chess set by Classic Game Collection will inspire your inner master strategist to learn the art of war between these inanimate metal pieces. Just $63 at Amazon, the 2.5-inch tall wooden inlaid board has internal room for storing pieces and other accessories.
Of course there’s a Baby Yoda Monopoly! If they aren’t already crushed by a million other quirky Monopoly editions, your resident Star Wars fanatic will love this special one commemorating Disney’s The Mandalorian series. Houses and hotels become hideouts and common houses, all the places are plucked straight from the show, and you’ll get several versions of “The Child” to use as board pieces.
PETA stans should probably look away now. Exploding Kittens is a card game about, well, exploding kittens. Try not to draw one, or they’ll explode and you’ll lose. I don’t think any of us like either outcome. You can mitigate the effects with defuse cards or manipulate others into drawing them before you do. The game is quick to learn and easy to play, so much so that my 5-year-old nephew could sweep the floor with a whole table of adults.
What could be better than building your own Mario levels in Super Mario Maker 2? Doing the same thing in the physical realm with actual LEGO pieces. This 231-piece set stars the patented plumber himself. It’s compatible with seven action bricks, and its integrated LCD screens and speakers help feed the imagination. Good for kids aged 6or more, my nephew breaks this out on a regular basis. (And then refuses to clean it all up, so consider going with something else if yours also lacks a single neat bone in their body!)