If you’re not a gamer yourself, it can feel next to impossible to know what to buy for the gamer in your life. To help you find a winning gift — whether they have a huge following on Twitch or just play for themselves — we talked to over a dozen gamers, games journalists, professional D&D players, and streamers about the consoles, games, collectibles, and accessories they’re wishing for this year. (We also combed through our archives to find products gamer celebrities such as Quinta Brunson, Amelia Meath, and T-Pain can’t live without.) We’ve arranged them by category, so it’s easy to shop for everyone from the sibling who just wants a new console to the budding Twitch streamer plotting to fill their room with LED-light strips. And if you’re shopping for the non-gamers on your list, we’ve got plenty of guides for them as well.
If your gift recipient is a mobile gamer, Andrew Webster, senior entertainment editor at the Verge, recommends a subscription service like Apple Arcade, which offers high-quality games and a more streamlined experience compared to the regular games you might find in the App Store. When we interviewed gamers to find alternatives to the Nintendo Switch, three of them recommended Apple Arcade as well. “I honestly find myself reaching more for my phone when it comes to playing games,” says Sophie Orchard, a gaming YouTuber. “Right now, there is a much larger variety of games for mobile. It’s more convenient to carry around (even if you are just carrying it around your house at the moment). And let’s be honest, it’s much nicer on your wallet.”
“Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the best value out there when it comes to video-game-subscription services,” says Heller. Webster recommends the service, too, because it gives you access to hundreds of games, discounts on future game releases, and an Xbox Live Gold membership, which allows you to play games online against other players.
For a “batch of services available for PlayStation” that’s equivalent to the Xbox Game Pass, Verge staff writer Cameron Faulkner recommends a PS Plus membership, which gives you access to new games each month and lets you play online games against friends and other gamers. You won’t, however, be able to stream games to your laptop or phone like you can with the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Faulkner also recommends Nintendo Switch Online, which allows you to play Switch games against other players — and lets you channel the ’90s with a treasure trove of vintage eight-bit and 16-bit video games originally made for the NES and SNES consoles.
“My philosophy on gifting games is the same as my philosophy on gifting everything else, which is that it depends on how well you know the person,” says Eclipsed podcast host, Twitch streamer, and games journalist Bijan Stephen. “It’s like giving people books: You buy somebody a book because you think it might make them think about the world a little differently or because you think it might become their favorite book.” In general, he gives either indie games or “huge-budget games” as gifts — big releases that “they’ve wanted to play for a long time and just haven’t had the money to pick up themselves,” mentioning Elden Ring and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare as examples. “If they’re not gonna spend $70 on Call of Duty, that’s a great gift for somebody.”
For the gamer who loves to hit 100 percent completion on every game they play, there’s Elden Ring. “Whether it’s stunning and carefully created vistas to stumble across organically, unique rewards (and the bosses that guard them) tucked away in hidden cellars, or a far-too-tough enemy that serves as a preview of your future power, every moment in the Lands Between feels like it was placed with the utmost intention,” writes Polygon assignments editor Austen Goslin.
One of those games that “might make them think about the world a little differently,” according to Stephen, is Norco. “It’s a weird cyberpunk mystery set in New Orleans about this shadowy oil company that has weird future technology and they’re doing something nefarious,” he says. “And it’s really beautiful and really beautifully done.”
In Stray, named one of the best games of 2022 by Vulture contributor Luke Winkie, you play as a cat navigating a cyberpunk post-human future, which is equal parts cute and spooky. Winkie calls the game “downright obsessive with its authenticity,” and it may be the first game your giftee gets to play with a dedicated “meow” button.
This old-school Tamagotchi comes in dozens of colors and is one of our favorite teeny-tiny gifts. (Strategist staff writer Rachael Griffiths said they make a delightful, unexpected present for friends who grew up in the ’90s or aughts.)
Instead of suggesting a video game, Brad Driscoll (a.k.a. Dinky Dana, who has over 45,000 subscribers on YouTube and 25,000 Twitch followers) recommends the board game GloomHaven. “It feels like a combination of Magic the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, HeroQuest, and Choose Your Own Adventure books,” he says. In an ever-changing world, you and your fellow gamers take on monsters, gather loot, explore new corners of the GloomHaven universe, and play cooperatively to keep the story going. Heller says it’s a gift “board-game people would definitely be very excited about getting.”
Or gift them the rule book for the classic tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons, which several D&D players, podcasters, and dungeon masters recommend as a must-have for players of all levels. Ally Beardsley, a cast member of the D&D web series Dimension 20, says, “It’s very nice to play D&D and not have your phone or any electronics, and the PHB is amazing for that.” Dungeon master Brennan Lee Mulligan says it’s an especially good gift for kids who are interested in tabletop role-playing games: “Giving them books to get totally absorbed in is great.”
If you’re truly stuck on what to give, Driscoll and several other gamers we talked to recommend a gift card from the online gaming shop Steam. Driscoll specifically suggests this as a gift for Twitch streamers, but anyone interested in trying new games or buying a new controller will appreciate it.
Controllers and accessories
Kyle F, a tech TikToker and gamer, uses the Glorious Model O gaming mouse, “which is pretty well known in the gaming community because of how light it is.” He went with a wired mouse over a less-expensive wireless mouse because “they aren’t nearly as good, and besides, a wireless mouse is always somewhat of a risk since it uses batteries, which can be heavy, and you risk them dying in the middle of a game.”
Kyle F is also a fan of this mouse bungee. “The smallest pull on the cord can drag the mouse back,” he says. “That can be pretty detrimental because it prohibits you from being able to flick your arm around [while playing games]. If you stick the bungee at the back of your desk, it holds the cable up in the air, basically floating, causing no drag against the mouse.”
“The Backbone One is also a great controller add-on made especially for the iPhone,” Faulkner says (as long as that iPhone is capable of running iOS 13). The setup is simple, done through an app and onscreen tutorial. Strategist writer Jordan McMahon is also a fan of the controller for its ease of use and portability. “The Backbone itself is powered by the phone’s battery, and it doesn’t require a Bluetooth connection to work, so you don’t have to worry about topping off your battery before heading out the door,” he says. “The added portability, and the consolelike experience the Backbone provides when paired with a good game, have turned gaming on my iPhone into a first-class experience that can follow me nearly anywhere.”
Rivera told us that a Pro Controller is a great gift for someone who already owns a Nintendo Switch. “If you have seen a Nintendo Switch, you know that the controllers are tiny and the Pro Controller is bigger and more comfortable,” says Rivera. The tween boys we asked about the gifts they want confirmed they’d like a Switch controller.
“If you want to keep it simple and cheap,” Faulkner says, “PowerA’s gaming clip makes it easy to connect your phone to an Xbox wireless controller you might already have.”
If they don’t already have a Nintendo Switch, the console makes a foolproof gift. For the past three years, Switch has been the most wanted gaming system around with celebrity fans including Emile Hirsch, Jonathan Van Ness, Quinta Brunson, and Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath. (“When we wrote our latest record,” Meath says, bandmate “Nick Sanborn and I would take breaks by playing Hades” on the Switch.) According to the gamers we talked to for this article, it’s as popular as ever — Joshua Rivera, a freelance writer who often covers games, recommends buying the portable console for gamers of all ages, including beginners. Jamin Warren, the founder of TwoFiveSix, says, “Not only does it easily dock to your television, but there are also lots of great new games on it. For those who are looking for something really versatile and social, it’s a perfect device.” And when we talked to tween boys and girls about which gifts they’d want to receive, many mentioned a Nintendo Switch; if they already had one, they said they were asking for new games and accessories.
Emily Heller, a recommendations editor at Vulture and a gamer, recommends the Nintendo Switch Lite as an alternative to the regular Switch. “It’s great for casual gamers,” she says, “specifically for adults who commute on the subway to work.” Both Heller and her husband have Switch Lites — she told us they haven’t used their regular Switch that’s hooked up to the TV since getting the Lites.
Two years after its release, the PS5 is still a highly sought-after console — our colleagues at the Verge describe it as having “faster speeds and a more immersive controller” — and still challenging to find in stock because of supply-chain delays. If you’re willing to wait, you can grit your teeth and register for an invitation to buy the console once it comes back in stock on the Playstation website or Amazon. The situation may not be ideal, but Stephen says it “has definitely gotten a lot better” compared with last year, when prospective PS5 buyers had to wait in a queue on the Playstation website and keep refreshing to check out.
You can also go to StockX to get one, but our experts think it’s better to wait and save your money to buy it at the actual list price. “I don’t think it’s worth it,” Stephen says. “If you can live without it, which I think you really can because, up to this point, the biggest releases have come out on PS4 as well.” If you’re sticking to a PS4, he recommends the Pro, which has “better processors, more storage space, and better graphics handling.”
According to the Verge, the Xbox Series X console brings a p.c.-like experience to a console. It’s faster and, with up to 8K resolution and a 120 fps frame rate, can handle better graphics. For $200 less, the Series S console is still an excellent experience. It can’t handle 4K resolution, but most games play best at a resolution of 1080p, the Verge says.
Susanna Pollack, the president of Games for Change, told us the Meta Quest VR headset is a great gift for the avid gamer. It’s the brand’s first-ever portable all-in-one VR-gaming device that comes with two wireless controllers, and “it offers a premium consumer experience in virtual reality with stunning visuals and controls that let you interact naturally,” she says. Matthew Mason, a sixth-grade gaming and movie enthusiast, says he wants the Quest and its carrying case. In addition to gaming, Mason wants it to play VR Chat and to watch movies. Polygon calls it the best value you can get in VR right now.
If they already have every console under the sun, consider an iPad Air. “I have the iPad for when my laptop dies so I can still game and make music,” T-Pain told us. It also has a ton of uses beyond gaming. It’s one of our laptop recommendations for college students, was name-dropped on our 100-senior survey, and is a favorite of chefs, creative directors, and an assistant who buys corporate gifts.
“Astro continues to make great products that are mainstays in my gaming arsenal,” says Kahlief Adams, the host of the gaming podcast Spawn on Me. “It’s an amazing gaming headset that is amazingly comfortable, that has stunning immersive sound at a fantastic price. What’s best is that with an optional dongle, you can use this headset with either of the next-gen consoles, so your value is doubled.”
For a sleeker gaming headset, Warren recommends this one from Bose. “I’ve been a big fan of Bose products for a while and was delighted to see its QuietComfort line extended to gaming,” he says. “I have a million Bluetooth devices connected to my p.c., so I was looking for a wired option to play games with friends.”
According to Heller, a great, affordable headset is the Steel Series Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset. “It’s billed as the first wireless headset for Nintendo Switch,” says Heller. “That’s not entirely accurate because you need this little dongle that you plug into the Switch to make it work wirelessly. But it’s cool because it works for Switch, PS4, p.c., and Android phones, so it’s super-versatile.”
Another headset Heller recommends is this cat-ear set from a Razer Quartz line of p.c. accessories that are all pink and incredibly popular. She assures us that besides being adorable, it’s a very good-quality headset. “It’s got this cooling gel in the ear cups that keeps your head from getting overheated and it has this little divot on both sides for glasses to fit into so they’re not pressing up against your head — it’s a big deal for me,” she says.
Faulkner says the HyperX Cloud II avoids many of the pitfalls of other headsets. “Its headband expands to fit a range of head sizes, and the ear cups rest gently around my ears with nary a pinching feeling,” he writes. The sound quality is balanced, Faulkner says, “delivering just enough gusto for every scenario.” The buttons are simple and easy to master, the wireless range is excellent (even through a wall), and his set lived up to the company’s claims of a 30-hour battery life. He calls it the easy choice for p.c., PlayStation, and Switch gamers.
F. Martin of ArkiTechnology, a popular tech TikTok channel with more than 248,000 followers, recommends gifting the Echo Show. “I’ve surprisingly found it’s really nice to have some form of smart assistant on my desk,” he says. “It’s great for setting up routines and automating turning on your whole setup.”
“Once I started streaming, it became very apparent very quickly that I needed a bunch of buttons,” T-Pain told us. He likes the Elgato Stream Deck XL, which he uses to stream on Twitch and to control lighting and music cues on his podcast. “It’s pretty much a control panel for anything you need,” he says. “I got them all over my house as well. I think I have about 20.”
Gift them the easy-to-use “plug and play” app-controlled LED light strips that have become synonymous with Twitch streamer décor.
“I am of the very firm belief that you should start streaming with the stuff that you have,” says Stephen. With that caveat, he says, for someone interested in livestreaming, “a cheaper USB microphone that doesn’t sound like shit” — like Blue’s Snowball mic — “is a pretty good gift.” “I think, weirdly, sound matters more than video when you’re streaming to an audience,” he says. “You can stand not-as-clear video, but bad audio is really, really hard to deal with.”
“If they’re super into collectibles, you could get them a Funko Pop or other character-inspired figurines,” says Rivera. He really likes Amiibo, which he says “are huge!” Figuratively, at least. These little figurines attach to Nintendo Switch controllers and can unlock something in the game you’re playing via a sensor on the controller. Like Funko Pops, Amiibo come in a ton of characters from different games.
For tabletop gamers, paintable minis — miniature figures used to represent players, enemies, and NPCs — are a classic gift. D&D dungeon master James Melo’s favorite brand is Counterspell Miniatures by 1985 Games, which he likes for its “superhigh-quality resin” and “dynamic sculpts.”
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