Christmas is almost upon us. And for gamers, that means an opportunity (usually) to sit down and work through some of the year’s bigger titles – or maybe a chance to upgrade your hardware and enjoy old favourites. And that means there’s plenty of potential gifts for the gaming friend, family member or partner in your life.
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There are always different kinds of gamers. Some are the competitive type; others like their games to be a wholly casual, relaxing affair. Some have all the games in the world already, so it’s better to often gift an accessory or unusual toy. I’ll break down a couple of options for different types of people, one for those who are trying to keep spending down, and another for whom money is no object (relatively speaking).
The gamer who needs an upgrade
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti: around $1000
Want to play everything at stupid frame rates or insanely high presets? Welcome to the current top dog of gaming GPUs, the GTX 1080 Ti. Most people won’t spend close to this amount on a Christmas gift, but hey. If you’ve got the money, and your giftee has a gaming PC, they’ll be chuffed to bits with what this card can do.
The GTX 1080 Ti wins out over, say, a high resolution monitor with HDR. Why? Because there’s still plenty of 1440p/4K monitors that don’t support HDR, and there’s tons of games on PC that don’t support HDR either.
AMD’s Ryzen CPUs have just had a nice little price drop, meaning you can pick up an eight core/16 thread CPU for just under $450. That’s an incredibly solid deal, and while it’s not the fastest CPU for gaming, it’s a damn good all-round choice. The AM4 platform has also had a bit of time to mature, which helps on the performance
If you’d like to improve their gaming surroundings a little more affordably though, there’s this.
Breath of the Wild duvet cover: from $105
The tough part with buying for gamers is they often – and frequently – buy the thing they need, as soon as they need it. But something everyone uses every day, and neglects just as often, are the furnishings and bits and pieces around their home.
Case in point: duvet covers. You’ve got to sleep under something, so why not make it nice? Red Bubble has a range of Breath of the Wild furnishings, including a great bed-sized recreation of the game’s poster. It’s a nice way to jazz up the bedroom, and has a good chance of being a gift that your gaming friend/partner/relative wouldn’t have grabbed already.
The gamer who just wants to chill
Not everyone is the competitive type. Some gamers just want things they can relax and unwind to, so here’s some picks to help them through the holidays.
There are plenty of relaxing, chilled puzzlers out there. Some of them are even easy on the eye. Kami fits both categories, being a simple game about filling the screen by folding paper.
The idea is to fill the screen in as few moves as possible. You’ll never not finish the puzzle – it’s more about how efficiently you can do so, which helps if you just want to chill as much as possible.
It’s available on phones, as well as PC/Mac. Humble has it on sale for $US1.59 ($2.10) at the time of writing, although it’s gone on sale for less than a dollar before.
Zenge is a game about Eon, a journeyman stuck between worlds. Eon needs your help to get out, so it’s up to you to put the pieces together to help him on their way.
As you put the puzzle together, the story slowly unfolds. It’s all set to stunning visuals and charming, almost meditative music. Great stuff if you just want to unwind, and best played somewhere where you can enjoy the music at a decent volume.
Zenge is available on Android, iOS and Steam.
For the portable gamer
The Switch’s stand, by design, is pretty limited. And it’s especially annoying if you need to charge while you play. Fortunately, there’s a bunch of better stands out there.
One of those is the officially licensed HORI stand, which folds into multiple angles, has a hole so you can charge, and rubber grips to stop the Switch from moving around. It doesn’t cost a great deal, and it’s real handy to have if you’re travelling (especially if your gamer giftee likes to fly a lot).
While the Switch is a cracker of a device for portable gaming, there’s still a ton of insanely satisfying board games on mobile. And most of them are on iOS, or come to Apple’s platform first. Seven Wonders and Catan Universe both just dropped on iOS, and earlier this year the excellent Through the Ages came out as well. Board games are often better played on a tablet than a phone, and the best tablet to play them on is the latest iPad.
You can grab a 32GB model from Kogan for relatively cheap – less than a Switch, actually – and there’s plenty of cases and pouches available online to look after it. The three games above are also good ones to start with, although you can also look at non-board game offerings for something different, like the port of Titan Quest or retro games like Karateka.
For the person who exclusively games with their Switch, comes a case to match. This is an upgrade from the Waterfield carry cases we’ve written about before, with the Arcade case having enough room for a console, pro controller, Joycons, cartridges, and the HORI playstand above.
For the gamer who likes numbers
Terraforming Mars: $90
Image: Board Game Geek
One of the hottest games of the last couple of years, Terraforming Mars is a competitive game about colonising and terraforming Mars. Up to five players take control of a corporation as they work together to transform the planet’s atmosphere, while growing their economy, victory points, and contributions to humanity on the side.
The game ends when Mars is, well, suitable for life. But most of the time people will actually be spending their time balancing their need for projects to build in their future, versus resources in the short term. And with six resources to balance, projects to buy and effects to manage, it’s really a game about calculating efficiency.
Any gamer who likes managing systems – think fans of Factorio, or board games like Power Grid – will sink their teeth into Terraforming Mars. It’s available at retailers all over Sydney, although you can get a good deal from OzGameShop if you don’t mind the delay in shipping.
Have you got at least four hours to spend playing a game about destroying your enemy’s sun, their confidence, will and – quite literally – a lot of their stamina.
Game rounds have strategy phases. Action phases. Status phases. Tactical actions have seven different options. There’s rules for space combat. Galactic councils. There’s seventeen different factions to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Random encounters. Mercenaries. Trading cards. Trading goods. Objectives. Secret objectives. Ion storms. Gravity rifts. Technology trees.
Twilight Imperium is an experience. A long, very very long, experience. And you can play with as few or as many extra elements of Twilight Imperium as you like. It’s been in print for a while, although the fourth edition is due for release before the end of the year.
Just make sure you have a massive table. And a full weekend: if you’ve got five or six players, you’ll need at least eight hours. And probably double that if it’s your first time.
For the gamer who wants to shoot stuff
Maybe your definition of unwinding is by blowing a lot of things away. Virtually. With a gun, obviously.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of good options that have come out this year. The more friends your gamer giftee has, the better, but here’s a few good places to start.
On the off chance that your gaming giftee hasn’t played PUBG yet, buy it for them. It’s due out on Xbox before the end of the year, which should be a fun experience for the family as everyone sits around on the edge of their seat while the person with the controller hides in a bush.
A strategy PlayerUnknown himself totally approves of by the way.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Wildlands is going for relatively cheap right now, and if you get a group of mates together it can be a fun co-op experience. It’s a perfectly functional third-person shooter played solo, mind you, and it’s also a sneakily good choice for anyone who’s just upgraded their PC. Not as pretty as Battlefront 2, of course, but you’ll probably end up playing it for longer.
For the gamer who likes their platforming nostalgia
Plenty of gamers grew up with platformers, and the genre was well served again in 2017. If you know someone who likes a dose of platforming nostalgia, or simply enjoys intriguing experiences that modern indie platformers tend to offer, here’s some choices to help.
One of the best Metroidvania games released in the last few years, and comfortably one of the best Australian games to boot. A must for any 2D platformer fan.
A game featuring an adorable slugcat who can only progress so far before having to find refuge, Rain World offers a far more challenging, but intriguing, twist on the 2D platformer/survival genre.
There’s so much to unpack, that it’s easier to refer you to Mikey’s take on the game earlier this year. But be warned – this is not an easy game. Similarly, if you know someone who often talks about loving Dark Souls and other games because of their mechanical difficulty, gift this their way. And watch them crumble in more ways than one.
The Mummy Demastered
A surprisingly capable tie-in game for an astonishingly garbage film, The Mummy Demastered is a neat Metroidvania-style game. But unsurprisingly, launching in the same week as Super Mario Odyssey, the new Wolfenstein and Assassin’s Creed: Origins tends to dull your hype a bit.
But it’s surprisingly capable, and a good addition to anyone’s library if they’re a fan of the genre. It doesn’t rewrite the book for 16-bit side-scrolling platformers, and the oldschool directional style of aiming will irritate some. But if you know someone who just knocked off the new Metroid, this might be a good game to toss their way.
For the gamer who has everything but could use more stuff
Sometimes it’s a bit too hard to gift someone games, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them an upgrade in other places. Here’s some accessories that might be worth checking out.
Sometimes it just feels better to have your arms on the same material as your mouse, you know? That’s the idea behind extended gaming mats, anyway. Whether it’ll suit depends on the desk/living space you’re working with (or the person who you’re gifting this to), but if the room is there Corsair’s MM300 is a decent option. Comfy, but not overly think, and with a rubberised base so it doesn’t move around.
HORI Tactical Assault Commander Pro: $200 plus
More of an Evil Week present than anything, the HORI TAC Pro is basically an officially sanctioned mouse and mini-mechanical keyboard setup for the PS4. May not be the most ethical present to gift gaming wise, but your giftee will probably appreciate it nonetheless.
People grew up with wired headphones, but the comfort of wireless headsets are a little too hard to ignore. The quality and battery life of wireless headsets have improved remarkably too, although some of the options out there are still a fraction too pricey.
The Logitech G933 is one of the cheaper offerings, as far as wireless headsets go. It works across PC, mobile and consoles as well, which is a huge convenience for gamers who like to play on any platform. The only downside is that they’re probably a mite too large to wear on the train, although you’d look like a bit of a dork doing that anyway.
What gifts are you looking to give your gaming friend/family member/partner this year?