It’s been an incredible year for video games — to the point where finding something special for the gamer in your life can quickly get overwhelming. Between the long-awaited PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles, the forever-hot Nintendo Switch and exciting new hardware like the Oculus Quest 2, there’s never been more choice when it comes to finding great games and gadgets for that special someone on your list.
Fortunately, we’re here to help you sift through it all and find the perfect present for even the pickiest gaming enthusiast. From hot new games and affordable stocking stuffers to cutting-edge hardware, here are our picks for the best gaming gifts you can buy this holiday season.
A follow-up to 2018’s beloved Marvel’s Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a thrilling open-world adventure that puts the focus on a younger, less experienced Spider-Man. Beating up bad guys and swinging through New York City is more exhilarating than ever thanks to Miles’ unique electric attacks and cloaking abilities, and it’s all wrapped into a concise, heartfelt story that will make you fall in love with Marvel’s fresh new webhead. The game looks absolutely stunning on the new PS5, but fret not — there’s also a PS4 version for those still on older hardware.
Ready to live out your fantasies of flying an X-Wing or TIE Fighter? Star Wars Squadrons lets you do just that, delivering exciting first-person space combat across an engaging campaign and a variety of fun multiplayer modes. Better yet, Squadrons supports cross-platform play between PlayStation, Xbox and PC, and even works with virtual reality headsets for truly bringing your dogfighting dreams to life.
If the gamer on your list could use a delightful island escape from the reality of 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is just the ticket. This massively popular Nintendo Switch game lets players build the tropical utopia of their dreams, complete with tons of ways to customize your home and island, a lovable cast of villagers to meet and a near-endless amount of creatures and items to collect. And with online multiplayer support, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a great way to virtually visit friends when you can’t be with them in person.
For those looking to sink dozens (if not hundreds) of hours into an engrossing open world, Cyberpunk 2077 is the game to get. This hotly anticipated role-playing game lets players craft their own custom character and explore Night City — a vibrant, dangerous sci-fi world filled with interesting characters to meet, enemies to battle and sweet cars to drive. Plus, Keanu Reeves is in it. Need we say more?
Subscription stocking stuffers
If you’re getting one gift for the Xbox, PC or Android gamer on your list, make it an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. The absolute best value in gaming, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate provides access to hundreds of top games including Gears 5, Destiny 2, Doom: Eternal and Minecraft Dungeons. You can download these titles to your Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S or PC, or even stream them to your Android phone or tablet via the cloud.
A PlayStation Plus membership is essential for any PS4 or PS5 gamer, providing access to online multiplayer, exclusive discounts and a rotating selection of free monthly games for $10 a month or $60 a year. PlayStation Plus also features the PlayStation Plus Collection, a curated game library that allows PS5 owners to catch up on PS4 classics like Uncharted 4, The Last of Us: Remastered and God of War.
A must-have for any Nintendo Switch Owner, Nintendo Switch Online allows you to play titles such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online with friends while enjoying exclusive perks and freebies. That includes member-exclusive games like Super Mario Bros. 35, cloud storage for your game saves and a robust library of classic NES and SNES titles.
Shadow ($12 per month; shop.shadow.tech)
If the gamer in your life is interested in PC gaming but doesn’t have thousands of dollars to spend on an expensive rig, Shadow is a great and affordable way to get them in the door. This subscription service essentially gives you access to a high-end Windows PC in the cloud, which you can access from any laptop, desktop or phone to play any PC games you own from marketplaces such as Steam, Epic Games Store and Origin. Shadow starts at just $12 per month, with Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics and more than enough computing power to run hot games like Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Red Dead Redemption 2.
The latest version of the Xbox Wireless Controller is one of the best gamepads you can buy — even if the gamer on your list doesn’t play on Xbox. Microsoft’s new controller improves on an already stellar design with textured grips, improved ergonomics, an upgraded d-pad and a dedicated Share button, and comes in white, black and an especially slick shock blue. It also works on a range of platforms, including Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC and even Android and iOS devices.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit turns your living room into an augmented reality Mario Kart course. What’s not to like? This innovative Nintendo Switch game comes with a real-life remote controlled car (featuring either Mario or Luigi), which uses a built-in camera to turn your home into an interactive racetrack that comes to life on your console. With a simple setup process that makes it easy to build your own tracks with cardboard markers, Home Circuit will delight any younger Nintendo fan on your list. One quick note: As of this writing, the Mario set is still shipping in time for Christmas, while the Luigi version is not.
The SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless is one of the best gaming headsets you can get your favorite Fortnite or Call of Duty addict, regardless of where they play. This sleek and simple headsets offers excellent wireless performance on PC, PS4 and PS5, and even allows for wireless audio on Nintendo Switch and Android phones thanks to a handy USB-C dongle. Add in a comfortable design ready for all-day use, a crisp ClearCast microphone for chatting with friends and a standard 3.5mm cable for use on all of your other platforms, and the Arctis 1 Wireless is a no-brainer choice for any type of gamer.
Finding ways to stay active indoors is more important than ever these days, and Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure makes that process easy by turning exercise into an addictive role-playing game. This unique fitness experience comes with Ring-Con and Leg Strap accessories, which work in tandem with your Switch’s Joy-Con controllers to track your movements as you jog in place and perform exercise moves to take out enemies. With more than 100 levels to explore in addition to mini-games for quick workouts, Ring Fit Adventure will make the gamer on your list look forward to working up a sweat every day.
A great collector’s item for any Nintendo fanatic in your life, Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is a fun and nostalgic throwback to Nintendo’s earliest handhelds. This pocket-sized portable lets you play Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels and a new version of the classic Ball game from the original Game & Watch gadget. And when you’re not gaming on it, the Game & Watch’s colorful screen displays the time complete with 35 different fun Mario themes that pay homage to the virtual plumber’s rich video game history.
Even with new Sony and Microsoft systems out, the Nintendo Switch is still one of the best consoles you can give to the gamer in your life. Nintendo’s hybrid games machine has a truly stellar game library that’s always getting better, from new hits like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Hades to modern classics like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Whether you go with the $299 Nintendo Switch for playing games both on TV and on the go or the $199 Nintendo Switch Lite for a more compact, handheld-only experience, Nintendo’s latest consoles are a gateway to some of the greatest games of all time.
One word of warning: The Nintendo Switch is still an extremely in-demand item, and many versions of the console are shipping after Christmas or are currently out of stock. As of our last check, you can still get the Nintendo Switch Lite from Best Buy in time for the holidays. Target is also shipping the standard Nintendo Switch in time.