Do you have a gamer in your life? Wondering what to get them for an upcoming event or holiday? You’re in the right place!
If you’re not a gamer, you might not be sure what to give a gamer kid who loves specific games and nothing else. Do we just give them money to buy Vbucks in Fortnite? There are lots of ways we can support the gamers in our life without just giving money (although you can do that too!). This guide will hopefully give you some ideas of gifts that can supplement, compliment, or expand the interests of the gamer in your life
Here’s how this guide is structured:
This guide will suggest gaming consoles, games, accessories, and non-gaming items that might be interesting for a person who likes video games. I won’t necessarily recommend every console or gaming accessory, but if you feel it’s the right fit for your family, go for it! This is a guide of recommendations for the average family, so it might not fit your family’s specific needs. That said, I think you’ll get something out of it 🙂
When possible, I will be using Amazon Affiliate thinks for these products. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I did not start monetization until August 2022, but this blog post and all the links therein existed for 10 months previous, with nearly all the same products. I recommend these because I believe in them, and using these links is a way of compensating me for this effort. Thank you for supporting me.
Remember- you’re the expert in your child
If a recommended game, console, or accessory doesn’t seem like something your child would be into, or something they’re ready for, that’s ok. Not every game will be a good fit for every family. You’re the expert on your child and their interests. Hopefully you can get some good ideas of potential gifts that will expand their gaming interests.
And with that…on to the gift guide!
If you are considering a console for your family, my go-to recommendation is a Nintendo Switch. This is a great console that will grow with your family; it’s portable, you can play on the TV and then seamlessly move to the couch, you can take it on a plane, train, in a car, to the mountains, etc. It supports play with up to 4 people (and you can tether two Switches together and have groups of up to 8 players play together) and the gaming library is extensive and family friendly. It’s also the most affordable current console at right around $300.
I am not against the XBox or the PS5, but these are much more expensive, harder to find, and are not as intuitive for younger players. Younger players may also struggle with the larger controllers. The library on these consoles is also different than that of the Switch (there are NO Nintendo games that are available on the XBox or PS5, so if you want Mario, Switch is your best bet).
Amazon Freetime kindle fire 7– $99. There is also the Fire 8 and the Fire 10, which are $140 and $200 respectively. This is a GREAT option if you have a young child (ages 2+) who can’t handle a controller yet but knows (or can learn) how to use a tablet. You can download videos, music, books, and games. This tablet can also connect to the internet and stream shows or movies. This version comes in a nearly indestructible case (believe me…I’ve tested it). I highly recommend waiting to purchase this around Black Friday or Cyber Monday- it tends to go drastically on sale. The other consoles will generally NOT go on sale (except the Switch)- you should buy them when and if you can, since supply is so limited.
Valve Steamdeck– $400-650. This is a handheld device capable of playing the Steam library (which is mostly PC games) and this is ONLY available for preorder. DO NOT order this thinking it will be available for winter holidays- EARLIEST delivery is Q2 of 2022! This is essentially a handheld PC, and would be a good option if you have someone interested in a lot of PC-based games but don’t own or want to pay for a gaming PC. I would not recommend this unless you have a teenaged or older gamer who already knows what they like and you know for sure there are games on Steam that they like to play- this is essentially the cost of a high-level console but you can ONLY play it handheld.
If you don’t want to shell out for a new console, think old school! Go to your local retro game store, or even check out secondhand stores or pawn shops. The N64, PS2 or PS3, or Gamecube all have extensive libraries of games that can be great fun for kids. And if you have an SNES or Sega Genesis in the basement, you can use that too! It can be a good way to gauge your child’s gaming abilities or interests before investing in a new console.
If you are interested in giving your child a game but don’t know where to start, this blog post walks you through how to choose a first game for your child. Remember- what game is appropriate or best for your child depends on their age, their interests, their concentration, their physical dexterity, and your overall philosophy and content comfort as a family. An age range on a game indicates only that it is appropriate content for that age range and that the content tends to appeal to that age range. You’re the one who knows your child best, so if a game speaks to their interests, it might be worth trying even if they’re not technically the target audience.
Since I already have an extensive post about how to choose a game I’m just going to list a few games that might be good gifts.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit Nintendo Switch, $100. This is a version of Mario Kart that you play in and around your house. Set up a physical race around your house, then use the Switch to guide a physical (real) Mario Kart around your house. Very young gamers can help set up the track, look at Mario’s perspective on the screen, etc. As they build their gaming skills they can take over more and more of the control.
Super Mario Odyssey Nintendo Switch, $50. A very good “first” Mario game. Why? It’s very open world, you can wander and explore without a time limit. This supports 2 players. When first playing, the adult can be Mario, and the child can be “Cappy,” Mario’s hat. Cappy has very few moves so this is a “low stakes” way to introduce a platformer but still allows the child to contribute to “winning” the levels.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Nintendo Switch, $50. This is a new-school version of old-school Mario. Up to four players play side-scrolling levels to try and make it to the end of the level. This is a collaborative Mario game, and if younger players struggle, they can “bubble up” into a bubble and float until another player rescues them. It’s fun, collaborative, and a great way to communicate.
Hotel Transylvania: Scary Tale Adventures Varying platforms. Price $50This is a good game for younger players, and essentially lets kids play through their favorite fairy tales.
Forza Horizon 5 XBox One, Xbox Series X, $60. For the racing fan in your life, this is the newest in the Forza franchise. If your child is interested in racing games, Forza Horizon 4 or Forza Horizon 3 are great, cheaper, places to start (and are also Xbox One exclusive). Forza games are particularly known for having real cars, picture-perfect graphics and realistic gameplay. Although best for a gamer who knows how to race, this can be a great game for kids of all ages interested in racing games, provided they’re patient (my kiddo’s very first video game was Forza Horizon 4, at age 4.5).
Wario Ware: Get it Together! Nintendo Switch, $50. Wario Ware might be one of my favorite game series of all time. It’s just so….weird. Players play alone, competitively, or collaboratively and try to complete fast paced mini games. You have no idea what the mini game will ask you to do until it’s time to complete, and you have seconds to react. The mini games are simply, goofy, and fun. If you own a Nintendo Wii, Wario Ware Smooth Moves is an older version of this game that features the motion controls of the Wii and is super fun. This is a game to open on Christmas morning and get everyone to play. Who doesn’t want to see Grandma try to pick a cartoon nose!?
Cook, Serve, Delicious, 1, 2, or 3 Varying platforms including Xbox, iOS, Switch, and PC. Price varies. The Cook, Serve, Delicious games is one of my favorite series. It’s a fast-paced cooking game with excellent writing, incredible art, and the kindest production team you’ll ever meet. The third game can be played multiplayer. All games ask players to complete recipes, deliver orders, attend to chores, and build their restaurant to notoriety. If you play these games on steam (using a computer) they are excellent typing games!
Ring Fit for Nintendo Switch– $80. This is an accessory and a game- this is a bodyweight strength training workout embedded in a game. I bought this in December 2019 (it’s like I knew what was about to happen…) and used it SO much in 2020, and still do when I can’t leave the house to work out. I love that the emphasis is on strength and form, not on weight. You jog or squat in place to move your character through a level, and use bodyweight and strength exercises to defeat enemies and gain ability. This isn’t necessarily a game for kids, but it would be a great game for a teen, a young adult, or for yourself!
Why didn’t I mention Fortnite, or Minecraft, or another “go-to” game? Because you likely already know about them 🙂 The above are my recommendations that might stretch you and your family out of their gaming comfort zone and push you to try something new.
If you don’t want to buy a bunch of individual games, consider a game subscription. These are increasingly affordable and are available on multiple consoles.
XBox Game Pass– $10-$15 per month, recurring charge. Available on XBox Series X/S, XBox One, PC, and/or mobile. The XBox Game Pass gives players access to hundreds of games on a monthly basis. There is no cap on how many games or hours they can play per month, and the library of games available includes current games and past game titles. To best get a sense of whether or not this is a good fit for your family, browse the library of Game Pass titles and look for things your child might enjoy.
PS Now $5-10 per month (depending on subscription model). Available on PS4 and PS5, or PC, . If you are a PlayStation household, you can get a subscription to PS Now and get access to hundreds of PS2, PS3, and PS4 games each month. Similar to XBox Game Pass, there’s no limit to how many games you can play or how many hours, and new titles are added every month. Browse the game selection here to get a sense of what’s available.
Nintendo Switch Online $4-35, depending on subscription. Exclusive to Nintendo Switch. If you are a Switch family, the Nintendo Switch Online membership gives a player access to the Nintendo Library featuring games on the NES and SNES. Starting on October 25, you can also add access to the N64 and Sega Genesis Libraries. If you only have one Switch gamer, it’s as little as $4 a month. Or you can pay $35/year and a family of up to 8 separate accounts can all access the Nintendo Switch Online library. Especially for adults, this can be a great way to visit your gaming roots- Duck Hunt, anyone?
Some of the best gifts for a gamer aren’t games at all; having the right accessories can make all the difference.
A portable battery– a portable battery pack is essential for car trips, camping, or plane rides, and you can also use it to power a portable gaming console. Mobile gamers can use it to charge their phone, or you can use a USB-C cable to charge your Nintendo Switch. This makes taking the Switch on trips a breeze; no need to bring the dock with you, just throw the portable battery in your bag and you can play games on the go. And if your child splits their time across multiple households, a portable battery will likely give you enough charge to power a Switch for a weekend away from the charging dock.
Bluetooth over-ear headphones– these are a lifesaver. We’ve used these for over 3 years so my child could listen to TV when we’re being too loud, listen to their Kindle tablet in the car, or use the included cord to plug into the audio jack on a gaming system, computer, CD player, etc. They hold their charge well, have held up to a lot of wear-and-tear, and have a max volume of 85dB so you don’t have to worry about the volume getting too loud
Nintendo Switch Carrying Case– there are many versions of this and I think they’re all good- if this one isn’t available, many similar ones will be good alternatives. If you have a Switch (or you will soon) having a carrying case is really helpful when traveling. You can put the switch, cable, portable battery, Joycon, and up to 20 games all in the case. Not only does it keep everything organized it keeps the Switch safe.
Nintendo Switch Comfort Grips– when playing the Switch on a TV, or using the joycon separate from the gamepad, it can be tricky for younger players. The controllers are small, and for games that require both, players hold one JoyCon in each hand and have to use them independently, which can be tricky. A “comfort grip” controller docks the JoyCon into one handheld controller that can make it easier to control the game. The one I linked also includes smaller grips to dock one Joycon, to be used with multiplayer games. Please note: playing with the JoyCon in a comfort grip can sometimes reduce its responsiveness during play. If your child is finding that the controller isn’t reacting like it should, try getting close to the Switch or disconnecting the JoyCon from the comfort grip controller.
Extra controllers: for whatever gaming console you have, extra controllers are an easy, relatively inexpensive gift that can turn your gaming console from a single player to multiplayer experience. Be it extra controllers for the Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox One or Xbox Series S/X wireless, Xbox One or Xbox Series S/X wired, these suddenly allow for multiplayer games, reduce fighting over controllers, etc. You can find off-brand versions of these controllers, and although they are often very well reviewed, I did not link them because I have not tried them. If you are looking for extra controllers for older game consoles, your best bet is a retro game store, or buying a third-party brand with good reviews. Please note: wireless controllers can sometimes have connectivity issues, which is a risk when buying third-party products.
Gaming adjacent gifts
If you have a gamer, you don’t have to get them a literal game. This is a great opportunity to expand their interests outside of gaming.
Super Mario Adventures LEGO kit– $45. The Mario series of LEGO takes the fun of two amazing things and puts them together. Unlike some LEGO kits that have a set way of building, the Mario kits are meant to inspire free and open play, and get kids to create their own Mario levels out of LEGO. You can also buy Bowser’s Castle or one of the other expansion kits. Sometimes one of the best ways we can pivot a child’s interest outside of gaming can be to find other ways of harnessing that interest, and this is a great way! If you have a teenager or adult in your life who is really into LEGO, consider the LEGO NES and TV set– you can even scroll and make Mario move across the screen
Minecraft LEGO kits– similar to Mario, harness your child’s Minecraft interests and transfer them into a real world setting. Minecraft is all about building and creating, and this can be a good way of transferring that interest into a manipulative like LEGO. There are kits of varying sizes, abilities, and cost, so choose one that fits the needs and abilities of your family.
Pokemon Cards– Back in the dark ages of the 90’s, Pokemon cards were all the rage, and they still are! Whether you start with the Battle set which explains how to play or assorted Pokemon cards, kids who really like turn-based games, or Pokemon games, will likely love the card based strategy games like Pokemon. This is also a great way to build reading skills and understanding why one card “beats” another card, which helps build strategic thinking. I really like the analog card game equivalents of video games because a lot of the “thinking” has to be done by kids, and can’t be magically done by the game.
Dungeons and Dragons starter set– $10. For an older child (12+) who really likes fantasy, or exploratory games, D&D can be a great way of pivoting that exploration to storytelling. Yes, D&D is still gaming, but it involves reading, comprehension, strategic thinking, collaboration, and provides a good social opportunity. This can be used with younger children if an adult is acting as the Dungeon Master, reading and guiding the group. Younger children may be interested in the Young Adventurer’s Collection, which is a well illustrated guide to many aspects of D&D that can introduce them to the concepts before introducing the game play.
Gravity Maze– $30. Have a child who likes puzzle games, or figuring out a puzzle level? This is a great hands-on puzzle. There are cards of varying difficulties that show kids the desired outcome of a level, and then kids use the included pieces to finish the level based on starting and ending points. When complete, they’ve built a tiny marble run! A great way to build the concept of “end design” thinking.
Snap Circuits– varying prices. For the kid who likes to tinker, build a building or contraption in Minecraft, etc., this is a great hands-on way of building those tinkering skills. Learn about capacitors, electricity, current, etc.
Travel Tangrams– $11. A good stocking stuffer. I still vividly remember having a travel tangram kit as a kid that I would play while on errands with my parents. This is another great “toy” for a kid who likes having a problem to solve. Many parents say that video games make it hard for their kids to play creatively- toys and puzzles like this help show kids how they can use creative manipulatives to build and create. Remember that creating and building is a skill, and giving kids things that are instruction-based can help them build those skills so that one day they can build and create completely independently.
Gaming related toy sets- varying prices. Whether Fortnite toys, or Roblox sets, toy sets can be a way of harnessing a child’s gaming interest and encouraging pretend play. Yes, it’s gaming related, but it’s not that different than getting action figures based on TV shows or movies.
Although still games, board games are such a great way to build skills and connect as a family. My favorite board games are collaborative, not competitive, but there are some good competitive ones as well that won’t have you storming out of the room (ahem…Monopoly, I’m looking at you).
My favorite collaborative game is Hanabi, in which players work silently and collaboratively to create the perfect fireworks display. It is such a good tool to work on communication skills.
Another great family and team-based game is Code Names: Disney. There are many versions of this game, but the Disney version uses pictures which makes it pre-reader friendly. It’s a wonderful way to work on how to communicate, hint, and give clues.
Jaws of the Lion is an introductory version of the massive, open world crawler Gloomhaven. These are definitely more “hardcore” board games- think lots of parts, lots of rules, and lots of strategy. Jaws of the Lion is good for a kid (12+) who is interested in fantasy and campaign games but aren’t ready for something as complex as Gloomhaven.