It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas shopping
And it's time to think about the gamers in your life.
You have a loved one (or several) who are passionate about gaming. Maybe you know what video games they already have (especially if you’re their parent) but maybe you just have a more general idea of the way they game (such as a friend or sibling). What to do for the holiday season? Don’t worry. There’s a slew of recent game releases and products to help you out.
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(No, none of these are affiliate links and I do not earn a commission from your clicks or purchases. Links are provided for convenience, but you should be able to find these products elsewhere online or in stores.)
Here’s a handful of suggestions from titles I haven’t written full reviews of, but are certainly worthwhile. You can also find more full-length OSV News reviews here, in addition to my Substack.
From the creators of Elder Scrolls and Fallout, Starfield received a lot of criticism at release. Some of it may be warranted, but long-time fans of Bethesda Studios will likely enjoy it. As a space explorer in the distant 30th century, gamers will visit hundreds of planets, moons, and space stations while they hunt for the truth behind a strange and mysterious artifact. The game is open-world and relatively non-linear with breathtaking visuals and a really engaging companion system.
Be aware that there are off-screen references to sex, language, narcotics use and some bloody effects. ESRB rating is M for mature, ages 17 and up, and you should probably stick to that.
Playable on Xbox Series and Windows.
Mortal Kombat 1
Mortal Kombat is the franchise that gifted us — eventually — with the Entertainment Rating Software Board. It has dominated the fighting scene for over 30 years with spine-ripping, head-severing intensity. It’s story is entertainly absurd, with most of the appeal in the 1-on-1 fights. Featuring a new Kameo mechanic that allows the player to get assistance during combat, this launch of the next phase of Mortal Kombat is a fantastic addition to the iconic series.
There is frequent language, extreme bloody and gory violence, and combat finishers that depict dismemberment and mutilation. ESRB rating is M for mature, ages 17 and up, and you should definitely stick to that.
Playable on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, and Windows.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Nintendo is always a guaranteed family-friendly entry and Wonder is certainly no different. Each level feels completely unique to the one before it and features fresh and interesting mechanics. Living up to its name, this title captures the elements of wonder perfectly, with lush artwork, beautiful music, and fairly satisfying boss fights at the end of each world. There’s an immense amount of playable content, especially in comparison to previous Mario titles.
Contains pretty mild violence. ESRB rating is E for everyone.
Playable on Nintendo Switch.
If your gamer plays on consoles, a spare controller is never a wrong choice. Xbox Design Labs lets you create a fully customized controller. And while Sony has yet to provide custom controllers, SCUF Gaming does have customized options for their PS5 and PC controllers — albeit at a much higher price point.
Nintendo’s Pro Controller has a longer battery life and is a little comfier to hold when the Switch is docked. It also comes in a variety of designs besides traditional black, many featuring classic Nintendo characters from Princess Peach to Pikachu.
While plenty of places will suggest headsets, this is where I’d personally exercise some caution. Much like a wallet or a purse, headset choice can be very personal and come down heavily to preference, from whether the ear cushions are leather or fabric to the microphone being retractable or flip-to-mute.
That doesn’t even begin to cover colors and customization. So unless you’ve been directed towards a specific headset, don’t let this be a spontaneous impulse gift.
All that being said, maybe your gamer is looking for their first headset. A nice, lightweight headset that neither breaks the bank nor sacrifices on quality is Turtle Beach’s Recon 70.
LED lightstrips. You can use them around your PC or your console TV and they add a little flair to any game room. Plus, they’re readily available just about anywhere. Be sure to check reviews and get something that’s good quality.
Gamer tags are often pretty important for the gamers in your life. Usually, it’s something that is meaningful to them and their in-game identity. Help them spice up their battle station with a customized gamer tag sign or headset rest.
Gamer Girls: 25 Women Who Built the Video Game Industry explores the oft-forgotten role of women in the world of gaming, from the 1960s to the 2000s.
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made is an insightful look into the trials and tribulations of the gaming industry, written by Jason Schreier, with a magnifying glass on developers like Bioware, Bungie, and ConcernedApe.
The Greatest Stories Ever Played: Video Games and the Evolution of Storytelling is aptly described as a love letter, spread across 39 enthusiastic chapters. It takes a deep dive into some of the most iconic games over the last 50 years and the relationship between gaming and storytelling.
Happy holidays as we wrap up 2023, folks.