Now that we find ourselves firmly in the holiday season, here are some gift ideas for the various kinds of gamers on your list. From the video game player to the one who prefers offbeat indie card games and more, we’ve got you covered!
Holiday gifts for the video gamer
The Sims 4 should please solo gamers who like slice-of-life and building play. Now with a free-to-play base game through Steam, and the expansions and add-on DLC costing less than ever, it’s easy to assemble a sizeable amount of gameplay. In addition, the publisher of the game, EA, has an inexpensive play pass that allows you to play it and its predecessor, The Sims 3, for just $4.99/month. It’s got console versions (XBox 1, Playstation 4) and I’ve played them, but I’ve always vastly preferred these games on PC. The ease of modding Sims titles on PC is one of the best things about the franchise.
For more action-oriented gamers, Ghostwire: Tokyo has consistently impressed me with its intense, high-definition visuals and engrossing storyline. It takes place in the largely-abandoned city of Tokyo. And it’s absolutely intense. (Steam offers a free prelude of the game, too. The art is more 2D in the prelude, but still a good foretaste.) Play Ghostwire: Tokyo either on either Playstation 5 or PC.
Back in 2017, gamers thrilled to Horizon Zero Dawn. Placed in a post-apocalyptic version of America, it followed a young woman named Aloy as she learned about her own past. Now, Sony has released a sequel to the game, Horizon Forbidden West. From reviews, it’s clear that the game has expanded on all the good stuff from the original to make a supremely satisfying game. It’s out on the Playstation 4 and 5, with some sellers bundling the game with consoles. I hear it’s getting a PC release someday, probably in 2024. or 2025.
Baldur’s Gate 3 still isn’t quite finished. But you can play its early access sneak peek. It’s had my husband enthralled for days now. There might be a Playstation 5 release in the future, but for now it’s PC-only.
And I couldn’t possibly close out this section without mentioning Stray. It’s not a long game in terms of hours, but it’s intense. Players take on the role of a stray cat trying to find its way home. The game’s scenery and interactions are downright lyrical. That isn’t surprising, though. Annapurna is the publisher, and they’ve made a slew of similarly-gorgeous games. Play it on Playstation 4 and 5, as well as on PC.
…And for the multiplayer game players
Multiplayer gamers might already be playing League of Legends. If not, the difficulty of the game might be turning them off. This game has always had a reputation for its steep learning curve. Well, take heart: they just had a patch this past October that made the game a lot easier to learn. This might be a great time to start exploring its complex world!
With multiplayer games, though, it can be iffy to give someone a new game because these gamers often get really attached to what they already play. Thus, one can’t go wrong with gift cards or expansions for the games already on their roster. For MMORPG players on a budget, these can open up whole new vistas of fun for the year ahead.
Find out what your gamer already plays, go to its shopfront, wherever it is (some games operate their own, while others go through services like Steam or Battle.net), and you’ll find a wealth of options.
World of Warcraft, for example, operates a shopfront offering all of its expansions and subscription options. So does MechWarrior Online (MWO), which my husband likes to call “Big Stompy Robots.” Sometimes these shop offerings can be downright heartwarming. Or maybe you’ll want to create a custom gift using Call of Duty’s free Snoop Dogg soundboard.
Holiday gifts for the person who loves board games
The holidays have a way of bringing together people from all different walks of life and situations. And they’ll want stuff to do while they’re together. Board games are one of the most natural uses of that time, as well as one of the most enjoyable. Once the holidays are finished, gifted board games can be used all year long. More and more people are getting into them these days—especially younger adults. So board games can be one of the easiest gifts to give, and one of the most appreciated.
For college students getting out on their own, consider one of the classic board games in wooden boxes to get them started on their own board game collection. Back in the early 2000s, these were everywhere. I’ve got several myself, including a retro version of Life. Sometimes, you can still find these at stores for $20-50, though Target offers even-higher-end deluxe versions of games like Monopoly. Otherwise, eBay might be a good option for searching them out. Of course, just the regular classic board games are fine too!
For the board game enthusiast who has truly everything and a gifter with a sky’s-the-limit budget, seek out the deluxe version of Outrage. The game is based on a real event from history: someone tried to steal Britain’s crown jewels. That person failed, but the game dares its players to succeed. Basic setups cost as little as $15 or so on eBay. But the super-deluxe version will set you back a cool $10-12k at least. It’s handmade of mahogany, with crown jewel pieces that are made of real gold and gemstones.
Some new board games that have majorly caught my eye lately include Wingspan (about competitive birdwatching), Planted (about competitively growing the best garden), and Star Wars: Outer Rim (about cooperatively and competitively making a name for yourself in the Star Wars universe).
… And for those who love tabletop roleplaying games
If your holiday list includes someone who already plays and loves tabletop roleplaying games, you can’t go wrong with new resources for the games they already play. Check out their bookcase for titles and genres, then go forth and conquer at the gaming shop or bookselling site. In addition, DriveThruRPG sells tons of PDFs and printed resources for every gaming system under the sun. I’ve used their service for almost 20 years; they’ve always treated me right.
For the past few years, Dungeons & Dragons has been making a major comeback in popularity. Newer players might like owning a piece of the game’s history in the form of its earliest modules. These were prepackaged adventures suited for characters of various levels. For budding Dungeon Masters (DMs) just learning the ropes, they were godsends in paper form. Here’s the full list of modules, if you want to track them down. The Wayback Machine has some for download for free, while DriveThruRPG carries both PDFs and printed modules for sale. The Amazon Marketplace carries some of the printed modules. Meanwhile, brand-new players might appreciate a beginner’s boxed set.
If you want to give a tabletop roleplaying gamer something they’ll remember, consider these:
- Realms of Pugmire, about being a good dog in a post-apocalyptic world
- Mouse Guard, about being a good and true mouse knight in a fantasy world
- Star Wars Roleplaying Game, Saga Edition; out of print but if you like this genre, it’s good
- Call of Cthulhu, the big granddaddy of atmospheric horror games; for the old-school fantasy equivalent, see Elric.
- Coyote & Crow, a brand-new alternate-history RPG based in a future America that was never colonized by Europeans
Of course, swag based on someone’s favorite tabletop roleplaying game is rarely unwelcome. For D&D players alone, that might mean gaming journals and fancy notebooks, art books about the game’s “visual history,” and even actual histories of the game itself. That’s not even counting clothes based on the game, or other accessories.
For the offbeat person who loves indie games that are way off the beaten track
If your gamer likes interesting, kicky games that are way off the radar these days, I’ve still got you covered. Some of these are oldies but goodies. Others are very new.
- Gother Than Thou, a fun resource-acquisition card game. Be the first to assemble your oh-so-very-goth wardrobe ahead of the other players, while avoiding sickness and debt—or worse, existence as a normie.
- Once Upon a Time, a storytelling card game that can be played solo or in groups. Cards contain various elements that players utilize in constructing their stories.
- Dork Tower and Munchkin, both Steve Jackson games that deal with either side of the gaming table. In the former, players play the gamers themselves. In the latter, their characters go forth to (hopefully) conquer. The illustrator for Munchkin, John Kovalic, also lent his talents to Kobolds Ate My Baby (KAMB), a brilliant, fast-moving little game of kobold-y mischief that I also wholeheartedly recommend.
- HeroQuest and Talisman, two engrossing fantasy board games that stand up to many hours of repeated play. Neither game is cheap. But both games are gorgeous works of art in their own right, as well as deliciously complex to play. The latter is much harder to find. It’s got at least 4 editions, maybe more. Hunt for it in gaming shops and well-stocked online vendors, as well as auction sites.
Holiday gifts for two players
Many games exist for big groups, but games that focus on two players can be hard to come by. Whether the two are friends, family, or somewhere in between, check these out:
- Lost Cities, a beautiful card game that has its two players collecting numbered cards that represent expeditions to faraway locales. The winner collects the highest-value cards. But it’s way more complex than that. Those cards must be arranged in order, too! This game’s strategy runs a lot deeper than a first glance might indicate.
- Mille Bornes, the classic French racing game. It’s been around for ages, so you can get as expensive and old-school as you want here, or stick to basic traveling sets. In this one, players seek to amass 1000 miles (as shown on mileage cards) while slowing their opponents down as much as possible.
- Heat: Pedal to the Metal is a somewhat similar new game that has board gamers very excited; it can be played solo, or with 2-6 players. In it, players keep their racecars’ speed up while managing engine coolness.
- The Fox in the Forest Duet, a cooperative game that involves the players trying to get through a forest by taking tricks (as in Hearts).
- Lizard Wizard, a new game in the “stock market” style for 2-5 players, whose titular lizard wizards seek to amass the most points to win. But points can come from many places, and these lizard wizards must decide to use their single-action turns to grow resources, put up buildings, adventure in dungeons, or recruit familiars and learn spells.
- As a distinct change of pace, consider Fog of Love, subtitled “Romantic Comedy as a Board Game.” Players assume the role of one half of a romantic couple. They take on secret traits and motivations, then roleplay out scenes with the other person.
Holiday gifts for the family to play together
As they say, the family that stays together, plays together. (Who’s “they”? They sure say a lot of things.)
Settlers of Catan might just be one of the most canonical family games ever made. It’s got oodles of expansions, but the original is perfectly playable all on its winsome own.
The classic game Carcassonne has entertained families for 20 years. Easily allowing for children and adults to play together, the game asks players to build roads and amass resources on a semi-cooperative basis—while trying to deny the other players too much help as they do the same.
Trekking Through History bills itself as “perfect for family gaming night,” and I can’t help but agree.
I can’t let this section go past without mentioning my all-time favorite board game, Dungeon! The exclamation mark is part of the game’s actual name. I’m not just excited to type it out. There’s a revised edition out nowadays that’s much easier to find. If you want to go old-school, you can seek out the original on auction sites. (Whichever you get, you’ll only pry my Huge Diamond out of my cold, dead hands.) Because the game is easy to learn and relies on chance as much as it does on strategy, kids can compete even against adults here.
For a delicious hit of nostalgia, Gen X gamer parents might also consider Quest for the Dungeon Master for family night. It’s an old-school game based on the equally old-school Saturday morning cartoon, Dungeons & Dragons.