Games are bigger, better and weirder than ever. They’re on our phones, our consoles (obviously), and our computers. They’re omnipresent. Some are good, some are really good and, yeah, some are bad.
Chances are you probably have a gaming enthusiast or two in your family — and tastes tend to vary, widely. Maybe they’re really into Fortnite or Call of Duty, playing the same game all night long.
Or maybe they grab more story-centric single players games like Red Dead Redemption 2.
Or maybe they used to play a lot, but don’t have as much time these days. Or maybe they’re just starting to dip their toes into the medium.
No matter what their tastes, here are some recommendations from the Valley Journal-Advertiser’s gaming guru.
For the Xbox Gamer — The Xbox has had a bit of a rough go this generation. It’s oddly-named Xbox One (the third system in the lineup) hasn’t caught on as quickly as the competition and there’s been a lack of really compelling console exclusives. It didn’t help that it launched at a higher price point and with a bizarre camera attachment that is no longer in vogue, the Kinect.
That aside, Microsoft has done a remarkable job of getting their gaming flagship back on track this year.
The recent launch of the Xbox One X (albeit a bit of a tongue twister), puts the Xbox back on top when it comes to console power. If you know someone who is all about getting the most pixels possible and drools over their 4K television — this is the best way to show off what console gaming can do.
And if they already have an Xbox, consider gifting an Xbox Game Pass subscription. This is essentially a subscription service, much like Netflix or Apple Music, but for games. You can download and play as many games in their catalog as you want (as long as you remain a subscriber) and that catalog continues to grow. Great for someone who likes to play a lot of games but doesn’t have a huge budget.
The Xbox Game Pass currently has more than 100 games and nearly all Xbox exclusives launch day-and-date on the program. No need to wait in line, just download and play.
Combine an Xbox One X with an Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold (online multiplayer) and you’re pretty much set for all the games you could ever want without ever leaving your couch — although, you probably should go out and get some fresh air from time to time.
Other big Xbox releases to check out include: Forza Horizon 4 — racing arcade/sim, Red Dead Redemption 2 — western/role-playing, NHL 19 — sports/hockey, and Soul Calibur VI — fighting.
For the PlayStation Gamer — When it comes to exclusive games, it’s hard to beat the PlayStation 4, now in its fifth year on store shelves.
From the spectacular God of War reboot, which takes the once cringe-worthy Kratos and transports him to the Norse mythology pantheon where he has to tackle fighting enormous monsters and raising a teenager, or Marvel’s Spider-Man, a wonderful and nostalgic romp through New York with everyone’s friendly, neighbourhood superhero, the PS4 just has those big, blockbuster games so many people are looking for.
Other big, fan-favourite titles this holiday season include: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a huge (like, really huge) adventure through Classical Greece or Red Dead Redemption 2, a massive, thrilling Western that puts you in the boots of an outlaw on the run.
Both titles will keep your gamer occupied for dozens of hours.
PlayStation is also home to arguably the most accessible virtual reality experience, if you already own a PS4. PlayStation VR is an expensive add-on to the system, but is also a totally new way to experience gaming. Put yourself on the bridge of the Enterprise in Star Trek: Bridge Crew for the ultimate geek out experience once you get the headset.
Or maybe you’re on the hunt for something that harkens back to a simpler time — The PlayStation Classic, for the giftable $129, features 20 games from the PS1 era, including Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid and Tekken 3. It comes with two controllers (although they’re based on the original, so no double joysticks like the dualshock) so a buddy can play along.
Other big PS4 releases to check out include: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 — multiplayer shooter, Spyro Reignited Trilogy — remake/retro platformer, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age — Japanese Role-Playing Game.
For the Switch Gamer — The Nintendo Switch has brought the company back from the brink, following through on the promise of the failed Wii U. A console that connects to the TV or something you can grab and game on the go — the hybrid system itself makes a fantastic gift for causal and hardcore gamers alike, with a growing roster of games that makes the Switch a must-have.
Whether it’s the massive Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (perhaps my favourite video game — ever) or the imaginative and colourful Super Mario Odyssey, it’s easy to see why the Switch has captivated so many since its launch in 2017.
What makes the Switch so appealing is the very nature of its design. You can play your favourite games on the TV, but when somebody else wants to use the TV, you simply pick up the system and continue playing. It’s seamless and simple, and makes the hybrid console an easy choice for kids, teens and adults.
It’s also become home to a wide array of loveable and creative indie games including Undertale, Into the Breach and Dead Cells. And although those games are available on most other platforms, the ability to play them anywhere on the Switch makes the platform the best place to play them.
Want to put your kid’s creativity and problem-solving skills to the test? Check out Nintendo Labo. There’s a game in there, sure, but the real fun comes from building interesting and interactive cardboard vehicles and accessories. The Variety Kit is the best one to check out first, it comes with a fishing rod, remote-control bug-like things and a piano, all of which you build yourself. Once they’re built you can use them with the packed in game — or create games of your own. And since they’re cardboard, you won’t have to worry about filling up the landfill with a whole bunch of plastic when you’re done with them. Great family activity.
Finally, the Switch has also established itself as a great party-game system, with games like Super Mario Party, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and several of the Jackbox games (a bundle of easy-to-play party games, where players use their phones as controllers).
Other big Switch releases to check out include: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Dec. 7) — fighting, Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee! — role-playing/collecting, Diablo III: Eternal Collection — action/role-playing.