Need a kids game? Kirby and the Nintendo Switch have you covered? A sports title? NBA 2K and Madden have got you. Drama, gunplay, even a Western? There’s a game out there for you, too.
Welcome to the 2019 holiday season, when there’s a video game something for everyone. The video game landscape has been robust with gift options for the last few years, but it’s never been more expansive than it is right now. The gaming library keeps going, as do the accessories around them, even the fashion (check out the Sonic the Hedgehog Pumas below!) and the competition (esports keeps growing.
None of that means you need to be overwhelmed for the perfect gift for your special gaming someone this holiday — at least not thanks to our help. Here’s a look at our favorite gaming gifts for everyone on your list.
FOR HISTORY BUFFS: RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
John Marston, although not as the lead character. The sequel to Red Dead Redemption chronicles the story of outlaw Arthur Morgan, delivering that rarest of video games — a Western — and doing so splendidly. It’s a more grounded Grand Theft Auto, with a stronger story and slightly better gunplay (and horses instead of cars), and it’s perfect for any gamer who loves a great story, or wants a slice out of history.
Not that it’s the only option for gamers who dig history. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey also delivers a fine adventure, telling the story of Sparta and opening up the franchise’s stealth gameplay even more to deliver a massive gaming world filled with charm.
FOR LOVERS OF STORY: GOD OF WAR
Sony’s resurrection of Kratos in the fourth direct game in the God of War franchise isn’t all hack and slash and yelling. The titular protagonist is the star of a game that elicits plenty of emotion from the gamer, and plenty of intrigue as well. Kratos has a son now, and that son helps us see a different side of Kratos. The first half-hour of the game sets the tone for a tale worth paying attention to — and the gamer in your life will love it.
Fans of anime can also expect to fall in love with Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner for the PlayStation 4, an HD revamp of a classic PlayStation 2 game that involves plenty of mechs. (Think Gundam-style gameplay with a Metal Gear-wacky story). And Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise delivers some insane, wild, helter-skelter gameplay — along with another anime-inspired story that you won’t be able to help but love.
(And those two games in our History Buffs category? Count on story fans loving the tales in those games, too). FOR COMIC BOOK FANS: Marvel’s Spider-ManWe’ve come a long way since the days of shaky comic book game ports. While we all hope and pray for another round of Batman Arkham fun, Sony and Marvel team up for Marvel’s Spider-Man, a comic book video game that finally captures all the fun of being a web-slinger. It’s never been quite this enjoyable to swing your way around the Big Apple, and a solid story and boatloads of fan service complete the package.
DC Universe loyalists have options too. LEGO DC Super-Villains is another game overloaded with comic fan service, and plenty of humor. Best of all, it’s the kind of game you can get for a young gamer, then play with them to push them through to the end.
FOR SHOOTER FANS: BATTLEFIELD V
The preeminent gaming franchise is at its best with Battlefield V, which includes both a solid campaign (with a few interesting story points) and a wildly deep multiplayer that can support plenty of gamers. It’s the war game to have this holiday.
For less realistic war gaming, check out Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 instead. This year’s COD entry is even more multiplayer-focused than usual, but if your favorite gamer skips the story anyway, this is the game they’ll want.
FOR FIGHTERS: SOUL CALIBUR 6
Fighting games often feel inaccessible, but not this one. Soul Calibur 6 manages to make the genre feel easy to get into, thanks to in-depth explainers on how to use every character. And once you learn the game, there’s endless fighting fun to be had, courtesy of two story modes, a strong character creator, and stable online play.
For more lighthearted (but still incredibly challenging and deep) fighting game fare, wait a few days for the release of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Switch. Expect fast and furious action, and a game that can play equally well at a party as a wild and crazy game, or at a tournament as a traditional fighter.
FOR YOUNGSTERS: Nintendo Labo: Vehicle Kit
Nintendo’s Labo kits are all about changing how your children think about games: They’ll construct and build and learn the basics of physics and programming while building and prepping cardboard toys. It’s learning blended with gaming, and the best example of this is the vehicle kit, which turns a Switch into a car, with the right dose of imagination. If you go the Switch direction for your youngster this winter, consider a Labo kit and expect them to have endless fun.
And when they need a diversion from that fun, the Switch still delivers. Kirby Star Allies may be the best game for youngsters this year, loaded with easy and forgiving gameplay for little kids, with just enough depth that adults can find fun ways to enjoy themselves. Or step things up with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and help your youngster through the action.
Your final kid-friendly gaming option: Starlink: Battle for Atlas, a unique title that aims to be Disney Infinity for the next generation, letting you build and customize cartoon-style space jet fighters atop your controller for online play. It’s an addictive experience that’s loaded with fun, even if the worlds may get a little repetitive for adults. Starlink’s available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch, but it’s at its best on the Switch, partly because Star Fox is available on Nintendo’s console. No matter the game, Nintendo’s versatile console is the best place for kids this holiday.
FOR STRATEGY GAMERS: VALKYRIA CHRONICLES 4
For all the strategy gamers out there, Sega’s Valkyria Chronicles 4 took the franchise back to its roots, delivering terrific turn-based gameplay and a fantastic story about the fictional Second European War. The voice acting and anime-style cutscenes and portraits draw you into the tale, and the unique battling keeps you invested throughout. There’s terrific replay value in this game too; aim for the Nintendo Switch version if you can, because this is a game that’s perfect for a train commute.
Valkyria wasn’t the only stellar turn-based game on the Switch this year, either. Civilization VI, the excellent turn-based strategy game, was ported over to Nintendo’s versatile console as well, and it makes the trip with stunning success. You won’t lose much from the PC version, although the interface does take some getting used to. If the gamer in your life loves science and history, this is the game for him.
FOR LOVERS OF ADVENTURE: SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER
Lara Croft returns for her third adventure on next-gen consoles, and early on, this one establishes itself as a wild ride, pushing you through a wet-and-wild flood that Lara causes. Whether you love or hate Lara by the end of this one (and you’ll have moments of both), you’ll almost certainly enjoy the excellent puzzles and the new stealth mechanics.
If your gamer wants to take the world on in first-person instead, check out Far Cry 5. Ubisoft’s latest Far Cry delivers a story with plenty of local intrigue, and that certainly has its downsides (not enough lions and tigers). But its first-person stealth gameplay is still some of the best in the biz, and the open world has plenty to do; the gamer in your life can easily spend upwards of 20 hours trekking around Hope County, Montana.
FOR SPORTS FANS: NBA 2K19
Gaming’s best sports franchise was better than ever in 2018, fueled by a bigger, badder franchise mode and (finally!) draft class customization. It’s perfect for the sports fan in your life, especially if they love hoops, and it’s great on all consoles, from Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to the Nintendo Switch, which finally gets a proper version of NBA 2K.
If the gamer in your life isn’t a hardcore sports fan, also consider NBA 2K Playgrounds; think of it as NBA 2K for the NBA Jam fan. It’s a little more lighthearted fare, but it plays well nevertheless and offers plenty of replay potential.
Don’t know anyone who digs hoops? Then check out Madden 2019 instead; this year’s game feels fluid and plays fast. NHL 2019 and FIFA 2019 also hit their strides this year.
FOR ROLE-PLAYING FUN: FALLOUT 76
Bethesda’s new Fallout online game isn’t perfect (and we’ll have more on that in a few days), but it does deliver an interesting experience. In many ways, it’s essentially more Fallout; think of it as Fallout 4.1. And here’s the thing about that: While that may not make for an MMO game-changer, it does make for plenty of fun; it’s a sleeper for 2018.