It’s that stressful time of year when you frantically realize that you’ve not bought your friends or loved ones…uh…anything! Well, you might want to get on that, and Gaming Trend is here to help you. Throughout the year we keep track of things that raise an eyebrow with us. Sometimes they are the things you expect, and other times they are the things you missed in the cacophony of the wake of AAA titles. Either way you slice it, we’ve got your back with our Holiday Guide for 2018, featuring awesome videogames, virtual reality, books, peripherals, board games, and much more. Take a look and let us know if we’ve missed anything cool in the comments, and happy holidays!
Red Dead Redemption II (Amazon Link) – Rootin Tootin Guns and Shootin’ 2! This game came out swinging in true Rockstar style. With a deep storyline, and the promise of an online multiplayer world in early beta, we are just getting started with Red Dead Redemption II. You can check out our extensive review of the single player component right here in Ron’s review. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Forza Horizon 4 (Amazon Link) – Few games earn the coveted 100% score around here, but that’s precisely what Playground Games did with their newest entry into the Forza Horizon universe. Travis had nothing but praise for the racer, as you can see in Travis’s review. If you are an arcade racing fan, this is a no brainer. (Xbox One, PC)
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (Amazon Link) – 90s platforming nostalgia is back with the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Run, jump, and spin through the Wumpa Islands across all three PlayStation classics, remade with colorful HD visuals. This trio of mascot platformers collected on one disc is perfect for not only kids, but those nostalgic for the coveted fifth generation of game consoles (Sean’s review). (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – (Amazon Link) – While Fortnite might be the new king of the battle royale scene, we can’t discount PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for being the one to put the concept into the gaming mainstream. While released on PC last year, the Xbox One and PS4 versions are now available physically and digitally. Time to get your chicken dinner before the holiday rush! (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Rainbow Six Siege – (Amazon Link) – This game came out in December of 2015 and the team at Ubisoft somehow continues to find new ways to make it competitive and fun. With a fresh season and new operators courtesy of new Operation Wind Bastion free expansion, it’s clear that Siege is here to stay. (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
Mega Man 11 – (Amazon Link) – The Blue Bomber returns! Sean did an incredible Mega Man retrospective, covering all ten titles leading up to his review of Mega Man 11. It does a fantastic job of showing just how far Capcom’s little hero has come. This is an easy recommendation for any retro platforming fan. (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC)
God of War (Amazon Link) – If you haven’t yet played this year’s winner for The Game Awards’ Game of the Year, you should pick this up pronto! (You can check out Ron’s review to see what he thought of it) A reboot of the popular action series, God of War takes a more subdued approach to its storytelling, with its genuine tale of a father and son taking the center stage with a mix of RPG and action elements. It’s one story that you’ll have to play, boy. BOY! (PlayStation 4)
SoulCalibur VI (Amazon Link) – From its revamped story mode to a robust character creator, there’s a lot to love in the sixth numbered entry of Bandai Namco’s SoulCalibur series. (Lawrence’s review) Going back to basics with a trimmed, but solid roster of classic characters, the game features new mechanics and a change to the speed which will appeal to those who want some great weapon-based fighting gameplay. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Marvel’s Spider-Man (Amazon Link) – Insomniac Games blew everyone’s expectations clear out of the water with their step into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel’s Spider-Man respected Peter Parker as a character, while not rehashing his origin story. Furthermore, it gave a lot of attention to side characters like Miles Morales, Aunt May, and even made Mary Jane Watson a likable character for once. Pierce reviewed the game, and Ron scoped out the art book — both are an easy recommendation for any superhero fan. (PlayStation 4)
The Golf Club 2019 (Amazon Link) – The team at HB Studios have been hard at work making improvements to this year’s installment to their fantastic golf simulator. Now, thanks to a freshly-inked deal with the PGA, they are also the official PGA Tour golf title. This new title brings six real-world courses, a reworked and improved swing mechanic, improved animations, a course creator, a full online club mode, and more. The extra dash of authenticity of the PGA license brings pushes this one over the edge. Pick this one up for the duffer in your family.
Far Cry 5 (Amazon Link) – Getting to meet Greg Bryk and seeing how deeply he embraced his role as The Father in this game had a lot to do with just how compelling the storyline ended up being in Far Cry 5 (Ron’s review). Soon, we’ll get to see where it all leads with a fresh expansion in Far Cry New Dawn, but don’t miss where it all began. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Fortnite Deep Freeze Bundle (Amazon Link) – Fortnite Season 7 is shaping up to be a chilly escapade, so what better way to celebrate winter’s arrival than with more customization options for your avatar? The Deep Freeze Bundle comes with some premium accessories as well as 1,000 V-Bucks so you epic gamers can get that victory royale (and you might not even need your credit card either!) (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch)
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Amazon Link) – It’s hard to believe just how much the Assassin’s Creed formula has changed over the years, but there is no better example of player agency and freedom of choice than Odyssey. Ron had a lot of praise for the game in his review, citing improvements in combat, the return of open world naval battle, and a tighter narrative. We’ve just seen the first of three story-based DLC campaigns hit to tide us over until our next visit to the world of the Animus. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Dragon Ball FighterZ (Amazon Link) – Arc System Works has done something nearly impossible. They created a fighting game that is not only in-depth with a decent learning curve, but it’s also friendly for those not too familiar with fighting games as well. It’s a tag team, 3v3 fighting game with your favorite cast from the Dragon Ball franchise. Dragon Ball FighterZ is a wild ride, and could be great for anyone that likes fighting games, not just fans of the series, as you can see in our review. (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC)
Spyro Reignited Trilogy (Amazon Link) – Great for anyone that grew up with the PlayStation 1 classic trilogy, or fans of colorful (not to mention beautiful) platformers. Spyro is back (our review), and all three of his best titles are here in one convenient package. Jump, fly, scorch, and toast Gnasty Gnorc (and other delightful silly baddies) through over a hundred levels. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Diablo III (Amazon Link) – Fantastic for battling the denizens of Hell on the go, or just farming loot while waiting in line, the Nintendo Switch version of Diablo III features all of the features of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One cousins, but now in a portable format. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
Monster Hunter World (Amazon Link) – This game takes everything that was great about the Monster Hunter series and adds plenty of quality of life changes. Fun alone, or even more fun with friends, Monster Hunter World is an action game almost entirely comprised of boss fights with a steep learning curve. Except to put in triple digit amount of hours if you find yourself trapped with monsters from the new world. (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Amazon Link) – Lara croft returns, but in a way we’ve not seen her. Rash, arrogant, foolhardy. All of this culminates in a wreckless decision that costs people their lives and forces Lara to reevaluate her life. It’s a compelling storyline with a great payoff, completing the reboot trilogy arc we started in 2013. You can see Nathan’s thoughts on it in his review. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection (Amazon Link) – From being represented in the Persona Q sequel to a future DLC character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the Persona 5 protagonist gets around. In addition to those two games, we have the recently released pair of Persona Dancing sequels, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, which allow the casts of Persona 3 and 5 to shake their booties on the dance floor. Each game comes with a variety of tracks from their base titles as well as remixes and other related songs. Fans new and old will love this oddly entertaining duo of games, and if you can’t decide which one to get, the Endless Night Collection contains both games and an exclusive PS4 download of Persona 4: Dancing All Night for the low price of $99.99. Get ready to boogie on down to the groove! (PlayStation 4, Vita)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Amazon Link) – Perhaps the biggest Switch game of the year, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate bundles 74 characters from the biggest Nintendo franchises (and some third-party surprises as well!) in an up to 8 player free-for-all. The game celebrates Nintendo’s illustrious history while also paying homage to some of its competitors, with accessible yet deep gameplay that will appeal to newcomers of the series or veterans who have been playing since the first game nearly 20 years ago. Buy this and duke it out with your friends! (Switch)
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu (Amazon Link) /Let’s Go Eevee (Amazon Link) – Two sides of the same nostalgia fueled coin, Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee are must-haves for any Pokemon fan. Updating the classic formula in fun new ways, the duo of Let’s Go games bring gamers back to the Kanto region once more, but with a twist. You can learn more about the game by checking out our glowing review here. (Switch)
Sushi Striker: Way of Sushido (Amazon Link) – Puzzle games don’t get much stranger than Sushi Striker. Here, you’ll roam around the world, battling the Sushi Empire in bouts of sushi-matching, high-octane puzzle combat. Did I mention the entire game is wrapped up in a colorful, chibi aesthetic? Anyone looking for quirky, puzzle fun will find it here, along with our review. (Switch, 3DS)
Super Mario Odyssey (Amazon Link) /Splatoon 2 (Amazon Link) /Breath of the Wild (Amazon Link) – Whether you want to possess your friends with your hat, become a squid kid, or ogle shirtless Link for a few minutes while saving Hyrule, all of these first-party titles were solid hits last year. Out in the wild are re-released starter editions, which package a few cool goodies at the price of the base game. Check them out if you haven’t already, or give one of these to a friend that’s just getting a Switch. If you need an additional push, here’s Ron’s review of Breath of the Wild, Matt’s review of Splatoon 2, and Elisha’s Super Mario Odyssey review! (Switch)
Octopath Traveler (Amazon Link) – Boasting a gorgeous HD-2D aesthetic and a praise-worthy soundtrack, Octopath Traveler is a game that no Switch owning, JRPG enthusiast should be caught without. Kay gave the game a glowing recommendation in our review, which can be found right here. (Switch)
The World Ends With You Final Remix (Amazon Link) – Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, Square Enix’s The World Ends With You is a wonderfully slick JRPG that puts players in a deadly game where the losers face erasure. While the original game utilized the Nintendo DS’s hardware features, this Final Remix uses controls from the mobile ports of the game as well as some Joy-Con motion schemes for those that want a different experience. In addition, there’s some extra content for those who want to know a little more about the story. (Kay’s review) (Switch)
Katamari Damacy Reroll (Amazon Link) – Speaking of games that are celebrating milestones, Bandai Namco’s candidate for weirdest video game concept is turning 14 this year. A remake of the first game, Katamari Damacy Reroll updates the graphics of the PS2 original game and adds some optional motion controls for the Switch version. After the King of All Cosmos destroys the galaxy’s stars, it’s up to the Prince of All Cosmos to roll up enough things on earth in order to save the day and put the stars back into the sky! The game is simple to pick up yet hard to master, and comes with a quirky charm that’s sure to put a smile on your face. (Switch, PC)
Celeste (Amazon Link) – Celeste deservedly took home two trophies at this year’s Game Awards (and was nominated for two more). While it may be too tough for some to take, its perfect platforming, moving message about mental health, and incredible soundtrack make it a must-play if you’re up for the challenge. (Switch)
Kirby Star Allies (Amazon Link) – Another great couch co-op game for the entire family. Recently, Kirby Star Allies received its final update, expanding the cast of playable characters by over a dungeon. Kirby fans will love it, and so will anyone that likes a good side-scrolling platformer. It may be more on the easy side, but don’t let the adorable pink puff trick you, the end game can get nasty, as you can see in our review. (Switch)
Guacamelee 2 (Amazon Link) – It’s hard to believe how much fun this lucha libre-powered platforming sequel ended up being, but Drinkbox managed to capture the charm of the original and bring it to life once again. Viva el pollo, and check out Bryan’s review (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC)
Dead Cells (Amazon Link) – This game caught everyone by surprise. Mixing rogue-lite mechanics with Castlevania styling, and with a steady drip of storyline, Dead Cells is a great pick-up-and-play for home or on the go. Better still, the game is designed to chipped away at, so death is simply part of the design, as you’ll see in Codi’s review. (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC)
Crayola Scoot (Amazon Link) – If you’re looking for a family-friendly game to play with your young ones this holiday season, Crayola Scoot is a fun little surprise that mixes some slick skateboarding/scooter gameplay with a unique aesthetic based on games like Splatoon and Jet Set Radio. There are local multiplayer options and tons of challenges to conquer as you ride around the different locales. (Elisha’s review) (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC)
Brawlout (Amazon Link) – While it got off to a rocky start, as seen in Elisha’s review, Angry Mob Games’ Brawlout is shaping up to be an indie Smash Bros. supplement. With an emphasis on an offensive approach due to the absence of blocking, up to four players can experience the wacky zaniness of the game. In addition, there are a lot of post-launch updates to the title, with characters like Yooka-Laylee and the Dead Cells protagonist sharing the limelight with the Drifter from Hyper Light Drifter and Juan from Guacamelee! (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC)
Civilization VI (Amazon Link) – Arguably one of the premier 4X games, Civilization is a game that, as you push into your 500th turn, tends to grind even the strongest PC to a halt. You can imagine our surprise when long-time Firaxis porting partner Aspyr managed to convert their latest outing, Civilization VI, onto the Nintendo Switch. Being able to take the full Civilization experience on the go wasn’t something I ever expected to do, but here we are. (Switch)
WarioWare Gold (Amazon Link) – For bursts of pick-up-and-play wackiness, look no further than WarioWare Gold. With over 300 micro-games and a ton of fun modes, you can’t go wrong with this title. For more, you can check out our review right here. (Nintendo 3DS)
Battlefield V (Amazon Link) – Tides of War and the new squad system meet up in the fantastic new Grand Operations mode to elevate Battlefield V above its competition this year. (Our review) The single player campaigns are also compelling, but the team’s willingness to keep everyone together through free expansions from this point on is the coup de grace. If you are looking for more than die, respawn, die, respawn, die respawn, Battlefield V is the tactical title you are looking for. See you on the battlefield — I’ll be the one reviving you. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Hitman 2 (Amazon Link) – Have you ever wanted to slip somebody rat poison while dressed as a giant pink flamingo? How about pouring sugar in the gas tank of a Formula 1 racer to watch it explode into a giant fireball…while dressed as a pink flamingo? I guess what I’m saying is, this game is perfect for the Hitman or pink flamingo fan in your family. Travis seems to agree in his review. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Minit (Amazon Link) – You’ve got a minute to win it, or else you die. Actually, you’re going to die a lot in this cutesy little homage to Legend of Zelda, where each run lasts a minute or less. (Our review) However, some things stay permanent, so it’s up to you to explore the world and make some progress while you fall in love with the minimalistic but cute designs of the characters. (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch)
Star Control Origins (Steam Link) – This was a series from the early 90s that has been revived with a completely different format. It’s a space exploration game with plenty of hilarious characters, an interesting overarching plot, and a fun side game included called Fleet Battles. Fleet Battles, available for up to two players, have each side picking a fleet of ships as they send them out one-by-one in an intergalactic arena. Check out Sean’s review for the full download on this fantastic space exploration revival, and look for the Earth Rising expansion available by the time you read this! (PC)
Sunset Overdrive (Steam Link) – Perhaps the most underrated game of the current console generation, Sunset Overdrive was an incredible Xbox exclusive when it launched years ago (Ron’s review on Xbox One) on a platform that didn’t have a ton of players. Now, it’s available to a much larger audience on PC, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to play this under-appreciated standout title which combines the movement of Tony Hawk Pro Skater and the comedy and action chops of the studio that brought you Marvel’s Spider-Man this year. (Xbox One, PC)
XCOM 2 (Amazon Link) – There are a lot of “also ran” titles that try to be XCOM, but there is just no comparison. (Ron’s review of the PC game, Pierce’s review of the Xbox One version) XCOM 2 brings back the white-knuckle tactical planning and execution battles of the previous titles, alongside randomization, modification support, and a steady stream of support and expansions. While the game came out in 2016, It’s impressive how much the team at Maxis has supported this title well into 2018, and that only spells positive things for the possibility of XCOM 3. Pick this up for the person in your life who screams “HOW DID I MISS?! I HAD A 95% CHANCE!?!” repeatedly at his screen. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Battletech (Steam Link) – Ron and John wouldn’t shut up about Battletech, so it’s no surprise that it makes an appearance here. Harebrained Schemes did a fantastic job in bringing the tabletop game to life in their tactical shooter, and it’s easy to see how Ron has exceeded 120 hours before the Flashpoint DLC was even released. Look for his review on that shortly, but don’t miss all the great sales on the base game. (PC)
Onrush (Amazon Link) – One of the most criminally overlooked games of the year. A pure, fun racing game that brilliantly mixed white-knuckle racing with class-based multiplayer. Check out our review to see what we thought of this gem. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Yakuza Kiwami 2 (Amazon Link) – A brilliant and absurd crime story set on the bustling streets of Japan. Don’t let the super serious look fool you — there’s enough dancing, slot car racing, and bizarre out of context humor than you can shake a stick at. Read the review here to see why it still makes the list. (PlayStation 4)
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Donkey Kong Adventure (Amazon Link) – The DLC campaign for 2017’s surprisingly excellent Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (our review of the base game) doesn’t bring a lot of changes to the formula, but then again, it didn’t need to, as you can see in our review. This short and sweet adventure is just long enough to make agonizing hours of holiday travel — or avoiding your least favorites relatives — bearable. It’s fun, it’s challenging, and as you’d expect from a game with Mario in the title, it’s suitable for the whole family. (Switch)
Oculus Rift + Touch (Amazon Link) – If you are just getting into the VR game, there’s no easier setup than the Oculus Rift. The Touch controllers approximate hand motions more naturally than other VR platforms. With recent price drops, it’s also might be the perfect entry point for the would-be Beat Saber fanatic in your family.
HTC Vive (Amazon Link – Base System) (Amazon Link – Pro System) (Amazon Link – Wireless Adapter) (Amazon Link – Deluxe Audio Strap) – The HTC Vive rules the roost when it comes to room scale VR, and with additions like the Wireless Adapter (our review) and the Deluxe Audio Strap (our review), it’s easily the most comfortable and extensible platform on the market. The Pro version (our review) is a splurge above the cost of the standard Vive, but brings better clarity for text-heavy games like Fallout 4 VR and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR. Once you experience VR, you’ll never look at flat screen games the same way again.
Electronauts (Steam Link) – Team Survios makes the list twice, and with two very, very different games. Electronauts takes EDM apart and lets you, the player, reconstruct it in VR and somehow makes it all sound awesome. Kay did exactly that for 25 minutes in this awesome Let’s Play, and you can hear the results for yourself. If you’ve got a fan of VR and rhythm games, this is a unique blend unlike any other. (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
Beat Saber (Steam Link) – There’s a reason Beat Saber is consistently one of the most played games on every VR platform. It’s the type of game that translates whether you are a gamer or not — it’s simply fun for everyone. With mods on PC, it has a nearly infinite expandability, and the developers have been pushing fresh upgrades frequently. If you’ve got a PC VR rig, this has to be in your library. (PSVR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
Creed: Rise to Glory (Steam Link) – Boxing is one of those visceral experiences that translates perfectly to virtual reality. Survios makes a second appearance on our list with Creed: rise to Glory. Just in time for the second movie, Creed picks up some updates that add familiar faces to the roster. There are a handful of VR boxing games, but this one has some real heart to it, as Kay confirms in her review. (PSVR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Steam Link) – You can play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the TI-89 calculator nowadays, it seems, so it’s no surprise that it eventually came to virtual reality headsets. Thankfully, the timed exclusivity with PSVR was a short one (Ron’s review), giving way to the inevitable Vive/Rift version (Ron’s review for PC). You know what you have to do — mod it until it breaks! If you’ve got the hardware for it, this can be the most beautiful VR game ever made. Time to Fus Ro Dah in a whole new way. (PSVR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
Fallout 4 VR (Steam Link) – If Bethesda is going to bother putting The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim into virtual reality, you know they are going to do it with Fallout 4, right? Well, now you can mod it till it breaks for this Nuka-powered adventure. The team didn’t burn cycles on the PSVR platform, focusing entirely on PC-based HMDs. Sure, it has the usual Bethesda level of bugs, but that doesn’t stop it from being an entirely new way to enjoy Fallout. If you have a VR HMD, this one and Skyrim need to be in your library, as you can see in Ron’s review.
The Talos Principle VR (Steam Link) – David Roberts fell in love with The Talos Principle (his review), and anyone who has played it can attest that the devious puzzles and cerebral storyline will confirm that it earns its lofty 100% score back in 2014. Well, the Croteam…uh…team are back, but this time they’ve moved to the virtual world. Solving puzzles in VR makes this game feel entirely new. Do not let this one pass you by. (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
Poker Stars VR (Steam Link) – It’s free, and a whole new way to experience Poker. It’s also gorgeous to look at, has far more interactivity than you’d expect from a poker game, and somehow manages to be better than any of the pay-to-play VR poker titles on the market. Don’t take my word for it — check it out for yourself.
NoSweat Liners (Amazon Link) – It’s odd to recommend a sweat liner for VR, but if you’ve ever invited friends over for some virtual fun, you totally understand why this is here. NoSweat makes a soft and lightweight sweat locking material that simply peels and sticks into the inside of your favorite HMD, providing a little more hygiene barrier between you and your buddies. After all, you love them, but they probably need a good wash.
SteelSeries QcK+ Mouse Pad (Amazon Link) – There are lots of pads on the market for mice, but if you are ever needing fancy graphics and just want one that delivers excellent performance, then you need one of these. These come in all sorts of configurations, but even the large ones pop in at $10 bucks — the perfect stocking stuffer.
Gunnar Optiks glasses (Amazon Link) – I reviewed a pair of Gunnar SteelSeries glasses in 2014 and had great things to say about them, and then took a look at their newest iteration last year with the Gunnar Scope series, and came away more impressed with an even lighter pair of migraine-busting blue-light blocking eyewear (Scope review). Even after four years of use, these things are bulletproof. If you look at a screen for any extended period, these are an absolute must-have.
AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra (Amazon Link) – Capturing from a console at 4K? Totally possible. Doing it without a big clunky PC? That’s a little more difficult, or it was until AVerMedia stepped in with their Live Gamer series of devices. The AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra allows for 4K capture at 30fps, or 1080p at 60fps with fairly reasonable system requirements. I was able to capture 4K content with a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (a device without a discrete graphics card) while at E3, or as I described it, a trial by fire. You can see the results for yourself in our review, but suffice it to say, it simply works — just like you’d expect.
AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K (Amazon Link) – When I want to capture 4K at 60fps, I need hardware that can match that sort of throughput. The AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K can do exactly that, but can also handle specific utility resolution and fps combinations like 1080p/144fps — perfect for high speed games where framerate matters most. In our review, I do my best to show you behind the scenes of the capture process as well as the capture output, so you can see just how powerful and simple this awesome card truly is. Pound for pound, there’s nothing better at this price point.
NVIDIA Shield (Amazon Link) – The NVIDIA Shield came out in May of 2015. I did a three way shootout of streaming devices in 2016. NVIDIA did a refresh of the form factor, shrinking the device dramatically in 2017. Why is it on our 2018 holiday guide? There’s simply no better streaming device, whether you are talking about gaming or streaming media, even three years later. Now available in several formats, but all with the same core hardware, the NVIDIA shield is the Plex, Amazon TV, Hulu, Netflix, and game-streaming powerhouse center of your entertainment universe.
Pokeball Plus (Amazon Link) – Arguably the best way to play Pokemon Let’s Go, this acts as both a controller and Pokemon GO Plus. It only has a clickable thumbstick and a button on top, but that’s all you need for Pokemon Let’s Go, and the HD rumble and color changing center is a nice touch. Away from the game, you can carry a Pokemon from the game with you and have it automatically spin Pokestops and call out to you when it wants to play, which you can do by shaking the ball.
RAVPower Xtreme (Amazon Link) – We’ve taken a look at several battery packs this year, but RAVPower impressed us quite a bit. It delivers a ton of power in a USB-C format, with a price point that is attractive. I used one of these on a flight from Dallas to Sweden and back, and it made the difference between a dead Nintendo Switch and having to watch ancient movies on a small screen, and being able to enjoy quality entertainment for a dozen hours instead. Check out Elisha’s review right here.
Luminoodle (Amazon Link)- Getting eyestrain from staring at your screen during marathon sessions in Fortnite? Sounds like you need bias lighting, and Luminoodle does it right. Plug it into that USB port in the back of your flatscreen you never use and you won’t even have to think about it, it turns on and off with your TV! (Mike’s review)
Razer Phone 2 (Amazon Link) – The sun has risen, so you know that there’s a fresh iPhone offering, as well as a new raft of Android-powered phones. There’s even a new Pixel phone this year. All of them come up short compared to Razer’s newest device. Unimaginatively named “Razer Phone 2”, this phone sports double the RAM of every other device, expandable storage, a higher refresh rate, a massive battery, and is purpose built for gaming. If you are a gamer (and if you are reading this, I suspect you are), then this is the phone for you.
PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controllers (Amazon Link) – Switch – Nobody wants the weird controller, but these feel just like the first party Nintendo Pro controllers, but with a twist. On the back are two programmable buttons granting an on-the-fly competitive edge. The icing on the cake is that these come in a variety of looks. I personally couldn’t pass up a chance to pick up a Diablo III-themed controller and a Legend of Zelda-themed controller to celebrate two of my favorite franchises of all time.
PowerA Wireless Controller for Switch (Amazon Link) – Gamecube style- This controller is similar to the other controllers PowerA offers, oh but wait, it’s modeled after the GameCube controller. This is the perfect gift for those who plan on playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It is essentially a Wave Bird made specifically for the Switch!
PowerA Nintendo Switch Compact Metal Stand (Amazon Link)- This stand is great for playing your switch undocked and with other people. It is much more sturdy then the kickstand on the back of the Switch, and allows the console to be elevated. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the most difference…
Flip Grip (Fan Gamer Link) – This one’s a bit niche, but it’s a godsend for certain games. The premise is simple: The Flip Grip lets you use your Switch vertically in handheld mode, giving arcade ports a more authentic feel, and just improving the experience for any game meant to be played with a vertical screen. (Switch)
ASTRO A40 TR-X (Amazon Link) – Most headphones are comfortable for a short period of time, but few can handle a flight halfway across the world. I put the Astro A40’s to that test in a recent flight to and from Sweden from Dallas, TX. and not only are they comfortable, they drive out the constant drone of noise (be it from an engine, your neighbor, or an adjacent screaming baby) perfectly. Where most headsets can’t compete with ambient constant cycling noise, these perform beautifully in quiet or painfully loud environments thanks to the 40mm drivers. There’s a reason they brought these back. (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC)
ASTRO A10 Zelda Headset (Amazon Link) – Partnering up with Nintendo, the ASTRO team has built a special edition A10 headset with theming for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Using 40mm drivers, just like the A40 headsets, these are sure to sound great and look great under any Zelda fan’s tree, though it’s important to point out that these will work with any console or PC, just like the A40 TR-X.
Plantronics RIG 500 Pro (Amazon Link) – These headsets have the volume dial at the connector to the control for easy volume control. You can even lock it in at max to avoid yourself from accidentally bumping into it and muting your sound. The whole headset is modular, as you can see in our review, and the microphone automatically mutes itself when placed upright. As an added bonus, it comes with Dolby Atmos.
HyperX Cloud Mix Headset (Amazon Link) – This headset provides clear, directional sound quality that will give players an advantage when gaming, especially in games like Dead By Daylight. The adjustable frame and comfortable ear cushions make sure gamers can use this headset for long periods of time. The Bluetooth connectivity is fantastic as well for when you want to listen to music or videos without being tethered to your devices. Check out our review for more detail.
HyperX Cloud Stinger Headset (Amazon Link) – When it comes to Kingston and their Cloud series of headsets, you can do little wrong. The HyperX Cloud Stinger offers fantastic comfort with good sound quality for the price. It’s hard to find better for the price than the HyperX Cloud Stinger. You can find Austin’s review here.
Turtle Beach Elite Pro 2 + Superamp (Amazon Link) – Turtle Beach’s top tier headphones are worthy of their namesake. Available for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One (but will work on PC thanks to 3.5mm or USB or Bluetooth options), these speakers feature a 50mm set of neodymium drivers, something not seen in any other speakers in this category. If you sprang for the Dolby Atmos license (Gee, thanks Dolby), these support Atmos surround sound too. Drop on top that they are insanely comfortable thanks to the swappable magnetic memory foam ear cushions and you can see why this is the headset professionals use. While the Superamp isn’t required per se, the boost to in-game audio, bass, and the ability to tune chat vs. in-game sound is worth the price of admission, especially if you suffer from hearing loss as I do.
Turtle Beach Elite Atlas (Amazon Link) – The Elite Atlas is Turtle Beach’s flagship headset for PC. These sport 50mm drivers, just like the Elite Pro 2, to deliver crystal clear sound, delivering all of the sound impact and comfort of that headset with the MSRP of a mid-priced headset. These also support the same insanely comfortable foam cushions for long play sessions, making them an awesome choice for gamers looking for sound to match their 4K rig.
Turtle Beach Recon 200 (Amazon Link) – A solid entry point for headhpones, the Recon 200 comes with 40mm drivers and Turtle Beach’s flip-to-mute microphone design. While these don’t have the Bluetooth and USB options that the Elite Pro 2 gains with the Superamp, it does have a lot of the base designs that make those premium designs great.
Razer Naga Chroma (Amazon Link) – Purpose built for MMOs, this mouse makes macros a breeze. With a staggering 19 buttons and 16000 dpi, there are few mice that can match its accuracy and flexibility for complicated Raid nights.
HyperX Pulsefire FPS Pro Mouse (Amazon Link) – When it comes to gaming mice, you can’t go wrong with the HyperX Pulsefire FPS Pro. While its name may be a mouthful, the mouse itself is elegant in its simple design. It offers tactile sides for improved grip, five programmable buttons, and it glides across the screen with no issues. It’s not flashy, but it excels at the job. You can check out Austin’s review here.
Logitech G502 (Amazon Link) – While everyone I know raves about their Razer mouse, I have been happily chugging along with my Logitech gaming mice for years now. The newest addition is no exception, and it has yet to let me down. With 11 programmable buttons, five 3.6G weights, up to 16,000 DPI, and customizable lighting, the G502 is just what I need without overkill.
Note: You may notice that we are only making one chair recommendation this year. We put our butts in a lot of seats this season, but only one left us feeling happy. It’s not a lack of options that leaves only one choice here, it’s a lack of quality. There are a lot of chairs that look alike, but I can promise you that they are not built the same — that’s why we do reviews, folks.
Ewin Flash XL Gaming Chair (Amazon Link)- A true throne of games, this sturdy memory foam chair doesn’t have that pesky problem of being too small like other chairs do. If you are sick of feeling crammed into your chair while you work or play, then this is the chair for you! Here’s Mike’s review for the Ewin Flash XL.
Batman: White Knight Collected Edition (Amazon Link) – This critically-acclaimed limited series asks the question, “What if the Joker was a sane individual and Batman was the corrupt one?” After a messy encounter between the two, the Joker reforms into a person named Jack Napier as he tries to rid Gotham of crime. A series of unfortunate events occurs within the eight-issue series, but one that is full of twists and turns that may turn this into a modern classic.
Dark Knights: Metal Collected Edition (Amazon Link) – The biggest DC crossover event of last year is now collected into an easily digestible format! Batman finds a dark multiverse as well as a villain that only wishes to consume all the earths in darkness, and it’s up to every hero to stop this plan from happening.
X-Men Grand Design (Amazon Link) – If you’ve wished to head back to the golden age of the X-Men, now’s your chance! This retelling of the team’s history is collected in an oversized format, complete with a retro style and excellent art by Ed Pistor.
The Vision Hardcover Edition (Amazon Link) – Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream. After the events of Secret Wars, The Vision finally gets a suburban life with a family that he created himself. However, everything goes awry very quickly, and nothing is what it seems. This edition of Tom King’s breakout 2015 hit collects all 12 issues of the series and includes material from the special edition re-releases of the issues as well.
Dark Souls Year 1 Omnibus (Amazon Link) – Prepare to die in comic form with the first year of Dark Souls comics!
Sea of Thieves Collection (Amazon Link) – Get ready for some dark laughs with this collected paperback containing a treasure trove of Sea of Thieves comics inspired by the Xbox One game.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition (Amazon Link) – The Fullmetal Alchemist franchise is one of the most beloved Shonen series in recent memory, and VIZ Media has lovingly re-released the series in the form of the hardcover Fullmetal Editions. Containing one and a half volumes of the original series each, these sturdy books contain a few colored pages as well as some quality material perfect for gifting to manga enthusiasts.
20th Century Boys Perfect Edition (Amazon Link) – Some children dream of saving the world when they get older. Few imagine to go up against an intimidating cult. Protagonist Kenji meets up with his longtime friends when one of his buddies dies, and the story opens up to a global conspiracy from the being collectively known as Friend. These releases contain two volumes of the original run, with oversized pages and colored spreads galore.
Attack on Titan Colossal Edition (Amazon Link) – With Attack on Titan season 3 on hold until next year, there’s more than enough time to catch up with the manga before it resumes. Each of these editions comes with five volumes of the manga with oversized, premium-quality pages that include some exclusive content (with the second collection containing the Marvel’s Avengers crossover story!)
Akira Complete Box Set (Amazon Link) – While released last year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the manga, you can technically buy this now to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the anime film! A classic cyberpunk series by Katsuhiro Otomo, fans of the series will love the hardcover editions of the volumes in this box set, packed to the brim with special features and sturdy materials.
Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale (Amazon Link) – Who thinks spiders are cute? Just us? Giant Spider & Me tells the story of Nagi, a girl who finds a mysterious spider she names Asa as they have adventures in a world ravaged by some unknown conflict. A slice-of-life manga at its core, the story does delve into some more serious topics, but remains a lighthearted treat for the most part. Elisha covered the first two volumes here and here.
Dragon Goes House-Hunting (Amazon Link) – Dragons need homes too! In this hilarious series, protagonist dragon Letty is kicked out of his house after an accident and needs to find a place to stay. With his trusty companion Dearia, the two find themselves in the middle of human hijinks and a host of mishaps and trials in order to find a place that Letty can find home. (Elisha’s review)
The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins (Amazon Link) – The first chapter of an adaptation of the long-running Adventure Zone podcast features beautiful art by Cary Pietsch and the perfect ratio of pathos to punchlines. While the McElroys (three podcast pro brothers and their ex-radio DJ dad) play fast and loose with the rules of D&D, they sure know how to turn the game into a compelling tale.
NieR: Automata: Long Story Short (Amazon Link) – A novel adaptation to last year’s NieR: Automata, this book recounts the adventures of 2B for the glory of mankind. The first of two novels, this one adds some more context to the events of the main game, and will be a great gift for those that want more NieR: Automata in their life.
The Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide (Amazon Link) – +1 to character creation
Boss Fight Books (Amazon Link) – It’s worth checking out this entire series of deep dives into the best — and most notorious — games of all time. A few volumes have been added to the collection each year since 2014, and this year included all-time greats Shovel Knight and Katamari Damacy.
The Legend of Zelda: Encyclopedia (Amazon Link) – If there is anything you want to know about The Legend of Zelda, chances are you can find the information in this book. Stuffed full of details about not only the various games, the characters and items within them, but the actual lore of Hyrule, every Zelda fan should add this book to their collection. However, it is only one part of the Triforce of Dark Horse Zelda books, which you learn about below.
The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia (Amazon Link) – Perfect for any Zelda fan. Includes a detailed look at the timeline of the series as well as a taste of the artwork for every Legend of Zelda title made up to 2011’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. If they already own this title, there are a few more books in the series listed below.
The Legend of Zelda: Arts and Artifacts (Amazon Link) – This hardcover book is filled with over 400 pages of art from Zelda’s past, spanning from the NES original to the multiplayer 3DS title, Triforce Heroes. From full page pieces of art, to single character and item drawings, no Zelda fan’s coffee table should be missing a copy of this.
The Hearthstone Pop-Up Book (Amazon Link) – This is a great book for not only fans of Hearthstone, but anyone that is into Blizzard lore. The artwork is just fantastic, and it makes for an excellent collector’s item. You can check out Holly’s review for more info.
The Art of Marvel’s Spider-Man (Amazon Link) – As we mentioned for the game above, Ron came away impressed with the artwork behind the scenes from Insomniac. His review digs deep into how the game came together. If you are a fan of the game, Titan Books has done a fantastic job showcasing how it all came to be.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
D&D Core Rule Book Gift Set (Amazon Link) – There’s no better place for the new player, or the returning Dungeon Master looking to return to the dark than the Core Rule Book Gift Set. This beautiful box has everything you need to get started, including a Dungeon Master’s Guide, a DM Screen, Monster Manual, and Player’s Handbook, all encased in a hard-bound gorgeously-illustrated shelf box. Each book has artwork unique to this set, making them collector’s items in their own rights.
Waterdeep: Dragon Heist (Amazon Link) – Picked up that Rule Book Gift Set? This is your next purchase. Taking your would-be adventurers from clean sheet to level 5, this adventure is one of best modules I’ve played this year. Filled to the brim with political intrigue and tight combat corridors as you explore the world of Faerûn. It’s a beautiful introduction back into the world of Dungeons & Dragons.
Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage (Amazon Link) – Finished up that Dragon Heist module and want a little more? Well, Dungeon of the Mad Mage picks right off from where Dragon Heist ends. Starting at level 5 and running all the way up to level 20, this module drives players deep into the Undermountain of the mad mage Halaster Blackcloak himself. This 23-layer dungeon is beefy, but bring your best GM skills as this module doesn’t hold your hand, allowing you to act as sadistic storyteller of your own design with a little less guidance than its predecessor. Set aside a few weekends for this one — you’ll need it.
Special mention: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes (Amazon Link) – Knock it off, every dungeon can’t have a mind flayer in it! If you’ve run out of brainpower and need some inspiration on how you might torture…ahem…*inspire* your adventurers to greater heights, look no further than Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. This guide serves as a great primer full of freaks and geeks to bring your latest dungeon romp to life. If you REALLY wanna get in the good graces, grab the alternate cover edition before they are gone (Amazon Link).
Pandemic: 10th Anniversary Edition (Amazon Link) – Pandemic has been out for ten years, and it got a refresh when it became available to Target and other mass market stores. Since then Pandemic has expanded with new expansions, a dice version, several spin-offs like Cthulhu and Iberia, and two legacy “seasons.” Sometimes you just can’t beat the simplicity of the original, and the 10th Anniversary Edition gives Pandemic a proper rebirth. With a metal case, plastic component cases, and new art, this is a must have for the true Pandemic fan.
Arkham Horror Third Edition (Amazon Link) – It wasn’t long ago that Fantasy Flight released the Arkham Horror Living Card Game. It could have become the replacement for the board game, which hadn’t seen any kind of expansion for several years instead focusing on the LCG and Eldritch Horror. This year’s Gen Con revealed a new Third Edition of the classic. With a new location system and enhancements, Arkham Horror Third Edition should bring a new experience to those who have already delved into the madness, while bringing new players into the fold with enhanced mechanics.
Critical Mass (Amazon Link) – Close quarters mech combat has never been realized so well in a card game. Turns play out simultaneously, with players engaging in combat and defensive moves. The object is to destroy the other player’s critical components, but they require different amounts of damage to destroy their armor points. Destroy all the critical components and you defeat the other mech. Two sets are available, with one essentially being America vs. Russia. It’s robot fighting time!
KeyForge: Call of the Archons (Amazon Link) – Collectible card games can be difficult to get into, partially due to the fact that you need to take time outside of the game to prepare a deck which can be intimidating to newcomers. KeyForge bypasses this by creating the decks for you. What’s more interesting is that every deck purchased is unique. With a low cost of entry, a unique setting, and the fact that it was created by Richard Garfield who created Magic, KeyForge has the potential to have a long lifespan.
Gloomhaven (Amazon Link) – Many dungeon crawlers seem to take similar approaches with a campaign structure with dice-based combat. Gloomhaven takes a different approach to make it the closest thing to a role-playing experience on the tabletop. With characters who retire, unique character classes, and the ability to play the game solo or with a group of friends, Gloomhaven has the potential to last your game group over a year of gaming. That’s a ton of bang for your gaming buck. It’s hard to find, but more copies should be on their way.
Reef (Amazon Link) – Sometimes you want an unintimidating game to play with friends or family that don’t normally play games. Reef is about building underwater scenery. The colorful pieces stack on each other to build up your reef, while you pick up cards to gain pieces to build up your reef and score points. While the game is light, there’s enough strategy to keep even the most seasoned gamers interested.
Robotech: Attack on the SDF-1 (Official Site Link) – If you grew up with the smash up of three Japanese series to create one of the most beloved anime series in the US, then Robotech: Attack on the SDF-1 will give you goosebumps. With a giant cardboard-slotted model of the SDF-1, you’ll cooperatively control the crew to defend the ship, repair damage, and enable upgrades. This is the Robotech game you have been waiting for.
PDP Pixel Pals -(Amazon Link) I saw these at E3. Kids (and dorks like me) will dig em. They are cute, they are night lights, and they express your 8-bit awesomeness. Whether it’s Mega-Man, Shredder, Kratos, or Mario, there’s a pixel pal for you.
Razer Blade 15 Laptop -(Amazon Link) There are a lot of so-called gaming laptops out there, but none has impressed me more than the Razer Blade 15 this year. In my review I pointed out just how powerful this laptop truly is, despite living up to its razor-thin namesake. In every benchmark it handles the latest games with ease and at the highest settings, but you can take it with you. If you travel, this is how you game on the go.
Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD (Amazon Link) – I don’t work at Microsoft, but I do have a degree in Engineering. That said, I don’t need to use that degree to figure out that using mechanical drives is sooooo 2010. Seagate gets it, and they’ve delivered a magnificent solution with their Game Drive for the Xbox One. As I said in my review, pushing past the mechanical limits drives read and write speeds from the double digits up to the half a gig mark, and that has real world load time differences. Spend less time waiting and more time gaming.
Seagate BarraCuda HDD (Amazon Link) – If you are a PC gamer, you are well aware that games aren’t getting any smaller. Your hard drive can be a bottleneck, but fighting with space limitations can be a drag. Seagate delivers a balanced mechanical drive able to deliver a reliable 271 MB/s throughput with a staggering 12TB of storage space courtesy of their BarraCuda line of drives. In my review, you can see how it performed on a variety of titles, and across synthetic and real-world benchmarks. Face facts — you need storage, and there’s no doubt that this drive delivers it in spades.
Echogear Dual Monitor Stand (Amazon Link) – Whether you are a gamer, or you need side-by-side productivity, Echogear makes the best monitor articulation stands on the market. (Our review) Lightweight and durable, these Doc Ock-looking beasties freed up so much space on my desk, and allow me to move my screens around for gaming, push them together for writing, flipping one vertical for music production, or anything in between, all without the need for tools. Doing it all for half the price of their competitors? It’s hard to argue with that.
Funko Pops (Amazon Link) – Overwatch fans will love this adorable Funko Pop Winter Wonderland box, featuring Mei and Tracer in their holiday skins. It also comes with a Snowball keychain, as well as matching Mei and Tracer stockings! If your recipient isn’t into Overwatch, Funko has a bunch of other holiday Pops that are just as fun!
Fantom Xbox Storage Hub (Amazon Link) – There’s no doubt that games are getting bigger. The internal storage on the Xbox One isn’t getting any fatter, so that means turning to external drives to give you the legroom you need. Fantom has designed an external enclosure that holds that drive, pushes the USB ports to the front of the system (where they belong) and looks like it belonged on the Xbox One all along. Check out Ron’s review to see why it makes this list.
Overwatch hoodies (Jinx! Link) – Now you too can be Tracer, Widowmaker, Bastion, Winston, Genji, McCree, as well as a variety of other heroes from the hit video game! Snap em up for your favorite Overwatch fan.
Blue microphones (Amazon Link) – If you throw a rock at Amazon, you’ll hit ten microphones aimed at streamers, music producers, and gamers. Having purchased more than a few and returned them, I was happy to land on Blue’s Yeti microphones. Their Snowball series is my go-to for podcasts (though I should look into that Yeticaster), and my wife uses her Yeti Pro for music production. You get what you pay for, and these are worth every penny when clarity matters.
Razer Sila Router (Amazon Link) – There are a lot of routers out there aimed at gamers, but few that deliver on their QoS promises. The Sila does a fantastic job of pushing speed where it matters most, and setting up mesh for maximum reach is as easy as two clicks. Look for our full review on this device right here — there’s no doubt that Razer has hit on all cylinders with this one.
Loot Crate (Loot Crate Link) – The awesome part about Loot Crate is that there is something for every type of geek in here. D&D denizen? Got you covered? Fallout fan? Fully set. Halo? Hell yes. Deadpool, The Elder Scrolls, God of War, WWE, Firefly, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and even Sanrio loot crates are available. If you aren’t sure what to get your favorite friend, then don’t choose — let it be a random surprise for both of you!
Toast Glass Cuffs (Toast Page Link) – I’m a sucker for a heavy pilsner glass, and nothing classes up the joint more than a thick leather cuff with a laser-cut logo of my site zapped into it to complete the look. (Ron’s review) You’ve gotta have these for any game night — they are a conversation starter, and they keep your drink from sweating on your game table.
SNES Classic / NES Classic (SNES Amazon Link) – If you can get your hands on either one of these, do it. Rare as hen’s teeth, these classic mini-consoles feature some of the best classic games Nintendo has to offer for their platform. Super Metroid, Super Mario Cart, Final Fantasy III, Secret of Mana, and Earthbound are just a few of the gems on the SNES classic, but don’t miss the original Final Fantasy, Mega Man 2, Kirby’s Adventure, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, and Metroid on the NES Classic. Highly portable, these are also great plug-and-play for the occasional hotel road trip stop. (Ron’s review of the SNES Classic)
Enamel pin stocking stuffers, like from this shop! Gaming related, original, and super cute.
Did we miss anything? Was there a stocking stuffer or a must-have game that we neglected? Let us know in the comments. Happy holidays from all of us to all of you!