Need gifts for a gamer this holiday season? We’ve got recommendations.
By Washington Post Staff
November 18, 2022 at 4:31 p.m. EST
Holiday shopping can be a challenge, and shopping for a gamer can be even harder. In this guide, we’ve laid out a few options — and marked the type of gamer that might most appreciate the gift — to help you turn the difficulty of shopping down from hard to easy.
This list doesn’t include some of the more obvious gifts — specifically, the big consoles: the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X and S and the Nintendo Switch. (Though the Series S did just see a price cut, timed to the holidays). For the most part (barring one very big monitor and one very small PC) we’re focusing on less expensive purchases, somewhat off the beaten path.
The rise of the e-girl aesthetic has made finding cutesy PC gaming accessories easier than ever, but the options can still feel like slim pickings for console players. GeekShare has some seriously adorable designs for PlayStation, Xbox and Switch accessories that come in a range of fun, bright colors — perfect for matching the vibe of any cozy gaming setup.
The Catroller PS5 skin adds cute little toe beans and cat ears to the DualSense while maintaining the same responsiveness and satisfying tactility for which the controller’s known. The cat paw thumb grip caps (also available for Nintendo Switch and Xbox One controllers) feel great, made of sturdy but soft silicone that doesn’t slip around while you play. Mine held up admirably through the fast-paced combat of “God of War Ragnarok,” though it never stopped being funny using an obnoxiously pink, kitty-inspired controller to propel the hulking Kratos around. — Alyse Stanley
For the (high-end) gamer on the go
At times, the Steam Deck feels like it shouldn’t even be possible. Valve’s handheld takes the gargantuan library of ubiquitous PC gaming service Steam and squashes it down into a dense obsidian slab. Graphically, it leaves the Nintendo Switch wheezing and vacuuming up its dust, and even though it’s definitely larger, it’s somehow not that much heavier.
In short, if you know someone who never managed to finish, say, 2018’s “God of War,” the Steam Deck might help them finally fit it into their schedule. The device is not without its flaws — battery life chief among them, though you can tweak settings to maximize it — but visions of the future rarely arrive so crystal clear. — Nathan Grayson
If you want to experience video games without needing to pick up a controller or turn on your PC, we’ve got some book recommendations for you.
On the fiction front, A.E. Osworth’s “We Are Watching Eliza Bright” is about a female game developer who becomes the target of the internet’s rage after speaking up about sexism at her studio. The story is both funny and chilling, and it’s largely told in a third-person plural narrative voice that works far better than you might think. It will resonate (maybe too much) if the person you’re buying it for was around video games in, say, 2014. — Riley MacLeod
If you’re looking for nonfiction about the video game industry, two books — one by an muckraking outsider, and one by the insider’s insider — may be good picks. The former is Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier’s “Press Reset,” which focuses on the closures of a number of prominent video game studios, and broader volatility in the industry. The latter is “Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo,” a memoir by former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé that chronicles his ascent in corporate America. The two books offer wildly different perspectives, but both come from sources with unimpeachably deep ties to the industry. — Mikhail Klimentov
For indie game fans
Magnetic Goose Statue
“Untitled Goose Game” encourages you to let your inner jerk run wild and wreak havoc. Why not bring that delightfully chaotic energy into your home or workplace with this homage to the mischievous goose at the center of it? The statue’s magnetic beak can hold anything metal. Use it as a cute new spot to hold your keys or give it a knife and hide it around to delight and/or terrify your housemates and co-workers. — Alyse Stanley
For the ostentatious PC power player
Samsung Odyssey Ark
I cannot recommend the Samsung Odyssey Ark to most people. It is, after all, a 55-inch curved gaming monitor that costs $3,500. But if, against all odds, you can afford it and find space for it, it’s a sight to behold. If you position it horizontally, it wraps around your field of view like you’re gazing out the cockpit of a starship — which you can easily simulate on it with a game like “Elite: Dangerous.” However, you can also shift it into an upright vertical view that looms over you like a colossus (on which you can play video games).
Both of these views allow you to split the monitor into multiple, resizable sub-screens so you can, say, play a game on one, watch a Twitch stream on another and respond to Slack messages on a third (Note to my editors: I have definitely never done this!). Unfortunately, you can only use one HDMI input at a time for this; other sub-screens must be pulled from Samsung-compatible apps. This means the Ark can’t replace a multi-monitor setup if you’re connecting to multiple devices. The Ark can also be fiddly and unintuitive, with multiple remotes and numerous screen and resolution settings to sift through. Still, games — and videos and shows and everything else — look gorgeous on it, and it absolutely makes a statement (which is, again, “I and/or whoever gave this to me have a lot of money.”) — Nathan Grayson
I picked up “Ring Fit Adventure” at the start of the pandemic, and for about a year, it was my primary source of exercise. The game, which comes with a Pilates ring and a leg strap, asks players to complete exercises to defeat enemies representing different muscle groups. It’s a great way to work out in a smaller space, like an apartment or a living room, without spending too much on additional equipment, like resistance bands or weights.
With colder weather on the horizon, the walk to the gym (I live in a city) has felt increasingly daunting. If that’s a dilemma facing the person you’re buying a gift for, “Ring Fit” may be the answer. And here’s a hint: a yoga mat would go great as an add-on gift. — Mikhail Klimentov
For the sweaty PC gamer
SteelSeries Aerox 3
I’ve used dozens of different mice in my lifetime of various shapes, sizes and grip designs. The SteelSeries Aerox 3 is one of my favorite of all time. The Aerox 3′s slight, honeycomb frame makes it ideal for gamers with smaller hands or for anyone who wants one of the best lightweight mice on the market.
Despite weighing only 2.08 ounces, the Aerox 3 is remarkably sturdy and durable. The mouse comes with all the standard DPI toggles found on any other high-end gaming mouse and accompanying software if you want to make further tweaks like remapping buttons. It’s designed to be used with a claw or fingertip grip, and by being so light, it also solves one of the biggest drawbacks of gripping styles, which is mobility. Generally, using a claw grip allows you to be more precise with your aim than with a palm grip — at the expense of big movements. With a lightweight mouse like the Aerox 3, using just your wrist is enough to flick your cursor swiftly across the screen.
As someone who has used palm grip mice for most of my life, the Aerox 3 took a little getting used to. But after a few days, it felt so natural that I wondered if I should’ve got onto using a lightweight mouse much earlier. — Jonathan Lee
This list doesn’t include games (for that, you can read our recommendations here). But what if you could gift someone a lot of games all at once? For that, there’s Game Pass, which can be purchased for PC gamers and Xbox owners alike. The easiest way to describe Game Pass is Netflix for games. Titles published by Microsoft go up on the service on launch day, and plenty of other games from other developers are available as well.
And if the person you’re buying a gift for is a PlayStation gamer, there’s an equivalent service called PlayStation Plus, which offers access to some great Sony originals, such as “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.” — Mikhail Klimentov
Upgrading your gamer’s controller could provide a great gift. Whether you simply want to add a little color, with one of several PS5 options — like Sony’s official alternate colors of black, scarlet, purple, pink, powder blue or gray camouflage — or a custom paint job from Xbox Design Labs, there are options to help personalize their gameplay.
If they’re a more serious player who would like a little more precision in how their controller operates, a “pro” type controller like the Xbox Elite series we recommended last year, or the Scuf Reflex for the PS5 can provide additional customization, including buttons on the back of the controller to make some commands using the directional pad or the four right-hand buttons more accessible. If you want to stick with the first-party brand, the Sony DualSense Wireless Pro controller (with many of the same features as the Scuf Reflex) will release Jan. 26 and is available for preorder. — Mike Hume
For gamers who want some extra flair
OPI x Xbox nail polish
Xbox nail polish is a real thing. Yes, you read that right.
These sets of colors are supposed to appeal to gamers of any gender, and given that they’re from OPI (which happens to be the first brand of nail polish I ever picked up back in high school) they apply smoothly and look pretty fancy for a DIY manicure. The shades offer fun wordplay like “Can’t Ctrl Me” and “Heart and Con-Soul” and non-offensive colors that can go with any outfit.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the Xbox and OPI collaboration, as well as what other video game beauty products are out there. Another one to call out: a soap-making company that sold The Witcher and “Among Us” soap. Now that’s sus. — Shannon Liao