Dazzling gamers with gift-giving gets easier
This year, it’s easier than ever to find something to amaze the gamer on your list. Note: we’ve provided an ESRB rating for each game, which will help you pick an age-appropriate title.
Hardware and peripherals
No matter what kind of screen the gamer in your life wants to play on, there’s a new system for them. Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are the most popular. Both are home-entertainment consoles, providing access to games as well as music and video.
One of the best gaming laptops ever made is the Razer Blade, a sleek, 14-inch machine that’s three-quarters of an inch thick and has the horsepower to play the most intensive Windows games out there. Turtle Beach iSeries headphones complement the Blade nicely. Rechargeable, wireless, and with a hidden microphone, they’re full-featured and comfortable.
Handheld gaming options this season include the Nvidia Shield, a portable Android device that can also stream Windows games to televisions, and the Nintendo 2DS, a good option for younger kids whose eyes aren’t ready for 3-D viewing but who want to play their siblings’ 3DS games.
For teens and adults
Open worlds, in which gamers can roam around and play the way they want in their own time, are popular choices because they can take upwards of 60 hours to finish. The pinnacle this year is Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar; PS3, Xbox 360; rated mature), which has players taking on the guise of three protagonists in an epic and violent gangster story. Gangsters also feature prominently in Saints Row IV (Deep Silver; PS3, Windows, Xbox 360; rated mature), but this action adventure is as over-the-top and outrageous as it gets. Developed by Capcom Vancouver, Dead Rising 3 (Microsoft; Xbox One; rated mature) takes place during a zombie apocalypse in which gamers can create wild weapon combos to fight the undead. In Batman: Arkham Origins (Warner Bros.; PS3, Wii U, Windows, Xbox 360; rated teen), gamers go back to the beginning of the Dark Knight’s crime-fighting career. Or players can become a pirate plundering the Caribbean in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft; PS3, PS4, Wii U, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated mature). And finally, The Elder Scrolls Anthology (Bethesda; Windows; rated teen to mature) collects the five core games in the beloved role-playing series in a beautiful collector’s edition.
Some games provide a more linear story. With The Last of Us (Sony; PS3; rated mature), the developers at Naughty Dog deliver a mature, nuanced, and character-driven story about the end of humanity. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist (Ubisoft; PS3, Wii U, Windows, Xbox 360; rated mature), meanwhile, is a reboot of the spy series with Canadian actor Eric Johnson in the lead role.
There are also stories to be played in Battlefield 4 (Electronic Arts; PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated mature) and Call of Duty: Ghosts (Activision; PS3, PS4, Wii U, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated mature), but gamers tend to want these first-person shooters because of their visceral multiplayer modes.
For kids of any age
Sports games are always a hit, so go with the favourite activity in your home: FIFA 14 (Electronic Arts; all platforms; rated everyone), NBA 2K14 (2K; PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated everyone), and NHL 14 (Electronic Arts; PS3, Xbox 360; rated everyone 10+) are all outstanding.
The toy/game hybrid experiences of Disney Infinity (Disney; 3DS, PS3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360; rated everyone 10+) and Skylanders: Swap Force (Activision; 3DS, PS3, PS4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated everyone 10+) are fantastic family fare. The former is a virtual toy box with play sets for Disney properties such as Cars, The Incredibles, Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Toy Story. The latter introduces 16 new figures with tops and bottoms that can be swapped to mix and match powers, creating 256 different character combinations.
Your gamers have never had as much fun running, jumping, and exploring—and occasionally beating things up—as they will playing Knack (Sony; PS4; rated everyone 10+), Lego Marvel Super Heroes (Warner Bros.; 3DS, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated everyone 10+), Super Mario 3D World (Nintendo; Wii U; rated everyone), and Tearaway (Sony; PS Vita; rated everyone).
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo; 3DS; rated everyone) is based on the 1991 game A Link to the Past, providing a top-down perspective and the twist that Link can become two-dimensional and attach to walls so you can navigate the environment.