February 26, 2024

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

If you’re not a gamer yourself, it can feel next to impossible to know what to buy for the gamer in your life. To help you find a winning gift — whether they have a huge following on Twitch or just play for themselves — we talked to over a dozen gamers, games journalists, professional D&D players, and streamers about the consoles, games, collectibles, and accessories they’re wishing for this year. (We also combed through our archives to find products gamer celebrities such as Quinta Brunson, Amelia Meath, and T-Pain can’t live without.) We’ve arranged them by category, so it’s easy to shop for everyone from the sibling who just wants a new console to the budding Twitch streamer plotting to fill their room with LED-light strips. And if you’re shopping for the non-gamers on your list, we’ve got plenty of guides for them as well.

Apple Arcade

If your gift recipient is a mobile gamer, Andrew Webster, the games editor at the Verge, recommends a subscription service like Apple Arcade, which offers high-quality games and a more streamlined experience compared to the regular games you might find in the App store. When we interviewed gamers to find alternatives to the Nintendo Switch, three of them recommended Apple Arcade as well. “I honestly find myself reaching more for my phone when it comes to playing games,” says Sophie Orchard, a gaming YouTuber. “Right now, there is a much larger variety of games for mobile. It’s more convenient to carry around (even if you are just carrying it around your house at the moment). And let’s be honest, it’s much nicer on your wallet.”

Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

“Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the best value out there when it comes to video-game subscription services,” says Heller. Webster recommends the service, too, because it gives you access to hundreds of games, discounts on future game releases, and an Xbox Live Gold membership, which allows you to play games online against other online players.

Sony PlayStation Plus Membership

For a “batch of services available for PlayStation” that’s equivalent to the Xbox Game Pass, Verge staff writer Cameron Faulkner recommends a PS Plus membership, which gives you access to new games each month and lets you play online games against friends and other gamers.

Nintendo Switch Online 12-Month Individual Membership

Faulkner also recommends Nintendo Switch Online, which allows you to play Switch games on other systems — and lets you channel the ’90s with a treasure trove of vintage eight-bit and 16-bit video games originally made for the NES and SNES consoles.

‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II’

“My philosophy on gifting games is the same as my philosophy on gifting everything else, which is that it depends on how well you know the person,” says Eclipsed podcast host, Twitch streamer, and games journalist Bijan Stephen. “It’s like giving people books: You buy somebody a book because you think it might make them think about the world a little differently or because you think it might become their favorite book.” In general, he gives either indie games or “huge-budget games” as gifts — big releases that “they’ve wanted to play for a long time and just haven’t had the money to pick up themselves,” mentioning Elden Ring and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare as examples. “If they’re not gonna spend $70 on Call of Duty, that’s a great gift for somebody.”

Elden Ring

'Norco'

Photo: Retailer

One of those games that “might make them think about the world a little differently,” according to Stephen, is Norco. “It’s a weird cyberpunk mystery set in New Orleans about this shadowy oil company that has weird future technology and they’re doing something nefarious,” he says. “And it’s really beautiful and really beautifully done.”

'Hades' (PC, MacOS)

If they haven’t played it already, gift them the BAFTA-winning, Greek mythology-themed dungeon game Hades, which also happens to be Sylvan Esso’s favorite songwriting-break game. Rivera named it one of the top video games of 2020.

'Stray'

Photo: PlayStation/YouTube

In Stray, named one of the best games of 2022 by Vulture contributor Luke Winkie, you play as a cat navigating a cyberpunk post-human future, which is equal parts cute and spooky. Winkie calls the game “downright obsessive with its authenticity,” and it may be the first game your giftee gets to play with a dedicated “meow” button.

Original Tamagotchi

Photo: Retailer

This old-school Tamagotchi comes in dozens of colors and is one of our favorite teeny-tiny gifts. (Strategist staff writer Rachael Griffiths said they make a delightful, unexpected present for friends who grew up in the ’90s or aughts.)

'GloomHaven'
Very Good Deal

Instead of suggesting a video game, Brad Driscoll (a.k.a. Dinky Dana, who has over 45,000 subscribers on YouTube and 25,000 Twitch followers) recommends the board game GloomHaven. “It feels like a combination of Magic the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, HeroQuest, and Choose Your Own Adventure books,” he says. In an ever-changing world, you and your fellow gamers take on monsters, gather loot, explore new corners of the GloomHaven universe, and play cooperatively to keep the story going. Heller says it’s a gift “board-game people would definitely be very excited about getting.”

'Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook'
Very Good Deal

Photo: Retailer

Or gift them the rule book for the classic tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons, which several D&D players, podcasters, and dungeon masters recommend as a must-have for players of all levels. Ally Beardsley, a cast member of the D&D web series Dimension 20, says, “It’s very nice to play D&D and not have your phone or any electronics, and the PHB is amazing for that.” Dungeon master Brennan Lee Mulligan says it’s an especially good gift for kids who are interested in tabletop role-playing games: “Giving them books to get totally absorbed in is great.”

Steam $100 Gift Card

If you’re truly stuck on what to give, Driscoll and several other gamers we talked to recommend a gift card from the online gaming shop Steam. Driscoll specifically suggests this as a gift for Twitch streamers, but anyone interested in trying new games or buying a new controller will appreciate it.

Glorious Model O Gaming Mouse
Very Good Deal

Kyle F, a tech TikToker and gamer, uses the Glorious Model O gaming mouse, “which is pretty well known in the gaming community because of how light it is.” He went with a wired mouse over a less-expensive wireless mouse because “they aren’t nearly as good, and besides, a wireless mouse is always somewhat of a risk since it uses batteries, which can be heavy, and you risk them dying in the middle of a game.”

Glorious PC Gaming Race Glorious Mouse Bungee

Kyle F is also a fan of this mouse bungee. “The smallest pull on the cord can drag the mouse back,” he says. “That can be pretty detrimental because it prohibits you from being able to flick your arm around [while playing games]. If you stick the bungee at the back of your desk, it holds the cable up in the air, basically floating, causing no drag against the mouse.”

Backbone One

“The Backbone One is also a great controller add-on made especially for the iPhone,” Faulkner says (as long as that iPhone is capable of running iOS 13). The setup is simple, done through an app and onscreen tutorial. Strategist writer Jordan McMahon is also a fan of the controller for its ease of use and portability. “The Backbone itself is powered by the phone’s battery, and it doesn’t require a Bluetooth connection to work, so you don’t have to worry about topping off your battery before heading out the door,” he says. “The added portability, and the consolelike experience the Backbone provides when paired with a good game, have turned gaming on my iPhone into a first-class experience that can follow me nearly anywhere.”

Razer Kishi Mobile Game Controller
Very Good Deal

Faulkner likes this controller, which comes in Android and iOS versions. “When snapped around your phone, it lets you play mobile games that support controllers with ease,” he says. Faulkner’s colleague Sam Byford is a fan, writing, “I really like this design. It solves many of the biggest pain points of mobile game controllers: They can be awkward to carry, attach, detach, and pair with your device. The Kishi’s setup is effortless.”

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

Rivera told us that a Pro Controller is a great gift for someone who already owns a Nintendo Switch. “If you have seen a Nintendo Switch, you know that the controllers are tiny and the Pro Controller is bigger and more comfortable,” says Rivera. The tween boys we asked about the gifts they want confirmed they’d like a Switch controller.

PowerA Moga Mobile Gaming Clip for Xbox Wireless Controllers

“If you want to keep it simple and cheap,” Faulkner says, “PowerA’s gaming clip makes it easy to connect your phone to an Xbox wireless controller you might already have.”

Nintendo Switch

If, they don’t already have a Nintendo Switch, the console makes a foolproof gift. For the past three years, Switch has been the most wanted gaming system around with celebrity fans including Emile Hirsch, Jonathan Van Ness, Quinta Brunson and Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath. (“When we wrote our latest record,” Meath says, bandmate “Nick Sanborn and I would take breaks by playing Hades” on the Switch.) According to the gamers we talked to for this article, it’s as popular as ever — Joshua Rivera, a freelance writer who often covers games, recommends buying the portable console for gamers of all ages, including beginners. Jamin Warren, the founder of TwoFiveSix, says, “Not only does it easily dock to your television, but there are also lots of great new games on it. For those who are looking for something really versatile and social, it’s a perfect device.” And when we talked to tween boys and girls about which gifts they’d want to receive, many mentioned a Nintendo Switch; if they already had one, they said they were asking for new games and accessories.

Nintendo Switch Lite

Emily Heller, a recommendations editor at Vulture and a gamer, recommends the Nintendo Switch Lite as an alternative to the regular Switch. “It’s great for casual gamers,” she says, “specifically for adults who commute on the subway to work.” Both Heller and her husband have Switch Lites — she told us they haven’t used their regular Switch that’s hooked up to the TV since getting the Lites.

Sony PlayStation 5

Sony PlayStation 5 Digital Edition Console

Two years after its release, the PS5 is still a highly sought-after console — our colleagues at the Verge describe it as having “faster speeds and a more immersive controller” — and still challenging to find in stock because of supply-chain delays. If you’re willing to wait, you can grit your teeth and register for an invitation to buy the console once it comes back in stock on the Playstation website or Amazon. The situation may not be ideal, but Stephen says it “has definitely gotten a lot better” compared with last year, when prospective PS5 buyers had to wait in a queue on the Playstation website and keep refreshing to check out. (Still, if you’re planning on buying it as a gift, it’s worth doing so now instead of waiting until the last minute.)

If you’re willing to pay a premium, you can get the console more quickly at a marked-up price on resale sites with a verification process like StockX, but our experts think it’s better to wait and save your money to buy it at the actual list price. “I don’t think it’s worth it,” Stephen says. “If you can live without it, which I think you really can because, up to this point, the biggest releases have come out on PS4 as well.” If you’re sticking to a PS4, he recommends the Pro, which has “better processors, more storage space, and better graphics handling.”

Xbox Series X

Xbox Series S

According to the Verge, the Xbox Series X console brings a p.c.-like experience to a console. It’s faster and, with up to 8K resolution and a 120 fps frame rate, can handle better graphics. For $200 less, the Series S console is still an excellent experience. It can’t handle 4K resolution, but most games play best at a resolution of 1080p, the Verge says.

Meta Quest 2

Susanna Pollack, the president of Games for Change, told us the Oculus VR headset is a great gift for the avid gamer. It’s the brand’s first-ever portable all-in-one VR gaming device that comes with two wireless controllers, and “it offers a premium consumer experience in virtual reality, with stunning visuals and controls that let you interact naturally,” she says. Matthew Mason, a sixth-grade gaming and movie enthusiast, says he wants the Oculus Quest and its carrying case. In addition to gaming, Mason wants it to play VR Chat and to watch movies. Polygon calls it the best value you can get in VR right now.

iPad Air

Astro Gaming A20 Wireless Gaming Headset

“Astro continues to make great products that are mainstays in my gaming arsenal,” says Kahlief Adams, the host of the gaming podcast Spawn on Me. “It’s an amazing gaming headset that is amazingly comfortable, that has stunning immersive sound at a fantastic price. What’s best is that with an optional dongle, you can use this headset with either of the next-gen consoles, so your value is doubled.”

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series 2 Gaming Headset

For a sleeker gaming headset, Warren recommends this one from Bose. “I’ve been a big fan of Bose products for a while and was delighted to see its QuietComfort line extended to gaming,” he says. “I have a million Bluetooth devices connected to my p.c., so I was looking for a wired option to play games with friends.”

SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset

According to Heller, a great, affordable headset is the Steel Series Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset. “It’s billed as the first wireless headset for Nintendo Switch,” says Heller. “That’s not entirely accurate because you need this little dongle that you plug into the Switch to make it work wirelessly. But it’s cool because it works for Switch, PS4, p.c., and Android phones, so it’s super-versatile.”

Razer Kraken Kitty RGB USB Gaming Headset
Very Good Deal

Another headset Heller recommends is this cat-ear set from a Razer Quartz line of p.c. accessories that are all pink and crazy popular. She assures us that besides being adorable, it’s a very good-quality headset. “It’s got this cooling gel in the ear cups that keeps your head from getting overheated and it has this little divot on both sides for glasses to fit into so they’re not pressing up against your head — it’s a big deal for me,” she says.

HyperX Cloud II Wireless 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

Faulkner says the HyperX Cloud II avoids many of the pitfalls of other headsets. “Its headband expands to fit a range of head sizes, and the ear cups rest gently around my ears with nary a pinching feeling,” he writes. The sound quality is balanced, Faulkner says, “delivering just enough gusto for every scenario.” The buttons are simple and easy to master, the wireless range is excellent (even through a wall), and his set lived up to the company’s claims of a 30-hour battery life. He calls it “the easy choice” for p.c., “PlayStation, and Switch gamers.”

Amazon Echo Show 8
Very Good Deal

F. Martin of ArkiTechnology, a popular tech TikTok channel with more than 248,000 followers, recommends gifting the Echo Show. “I’ve surprisingly found it’s really nice to have some form of smart assistant on my desk,” he says. “It’s great for setting up routines and automating turning on your whole setup.”

Elgato Stream Deck XL

“Once I started streaming, it became very apparent very quickly that I needed a bunch of buttons,” T-Pain told us. He likes the Elgato Stream Deck XL, which he uses to stream on Twitch and to control lighting and music cues on his podcast. “It’s pretty much a control panel for anything you need,” he says. “I got them all over my house as well. I think I have about 20.”

Philips Hue Bluetooth Smart Lightstrip Plus Two-Meter Base Kit

Gift them the easy-to-use “plug and play” app-controlled LED light strips that have become synonymous with Twitch streamer décor.

Blue Snowball USB Microphone
Very Good Deal

“I am of the very firm belief that you should start streaming with the stuff that you have,” says Stephen. With that caveat, he says, for someone interested in livestreaming, “a cheaper USB microphone that doesn’t sound like shit is a pretty good gift,” like Blue’s Snowball mic. “I think weirdly sound matters more than video when you’re streaming to an audience,” he says. “You can stand not-as-clear video, but bad audio is really, really hard to deal with.”

Blue Yeti USB Microphone

Nintendo Amiibo — King K. Rool 'Smash Bros.' Amiibo

Nintendo Amiibo Mario

“If they’re super into collectibles, you could get them a Funko Pop or other character-inspired figurines,” says Rivera. He really likes Amiibo, which he says “are huge!” Figuratively, at least. These little figurines attach to Nintendo Switch controllers and can unlock something in the game you’re playing via a sensor on the controller. Like Funko Pops, Amiibo come in a ton of characters from different games.

Counterspell Miniatures Bone Behemoth

For tabletop gamers, paintable minis —miniature figures used to represent players, enemies, and NPCs — are a classic gift. D&D dungeon master James Melo’s favorite brand is Counterspell Miniatures by 1985 Games, which he likes for its “superhigh-quality resin” and “dynamic sculpts.”

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.


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