Holiday Guide 2018

Holiday Guide 2018

Written by Charles Husemann on 12/20/2018 for PC   PS4   PSVR   RIFT   XBO  
More On: Holiday Guide

Need some last-minute gift ideas? That's going to cost you, at least in shipping and handling for putting a rush on things this deep into the holiday season. Since everybody has a budget to manage, we're giving you a range of gift pricing to look at, from $1 to over $500. So, whether you you cashed in on your Bitcoin before or after the bust, we here at Gaming Nexus assembled a list of gamer-friendly items that we would like to receive ourselves. With this gift guide, you at least won't be at the whim of whatever Google serves up on an algorithm.

 

$1-$30


Steam/PSN/Xbox Live/Nintendo eShop Gift Cards - The holidays mean one thing: sales, sales, sales! Whether it’s for the Nintendo eShop, Playstation Network or Steam, a $10 gift card is a welcome sight in any stocking, as the purchases from all those digital sales can stack up quickly. And on GOG or Steam, $10 can get you, like, 87,455 different games during the Christmas sale.

Xbox Games Pass ($1 for 30 Days) - Having both an Xbox and PC gaming presence in the house, the Xbox Games Pass is a great way to get access to hundreds of games on the Xbox One and all new first-party titles on PC for Windows 10. For PC, these include recent launches such as Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, Forza Horizon 4 and Crackdown 3 in early 2019. Xbox One has all of those titles and more, plenty to keep you busy. Microsoft has a deal a few times a year where it is only $1 (including the current holiday season) and we have also seen renewal deals for up to 50% off.

Dungeons and Dragons Dice Set ($1-10) - This might be a bit on the risky side since people like to feel out their dice to see how lucky they can be. But a classy set of dice can be great for the DM in your life, or for the rookie player who's just getting started but won't stop borrowing your set. Yes, I actually bought myself a second set just to keep around as a loaner set for a while. Dice can also be infinitely customized, so there's likely to be color set somewhere that's perfect for a friend or a loved one.

Canvas Backpack ($4.55, minimum order 500) - Disappointed with the Fallout 76 canvas/nylon switcheroo and subsequent tone deaf PR debacle from Bethesda? Make your own high quality canvas backpacks by ordering right from the Chinese manufacturer themselves (via Alibaba). It still won't be the one from the Power Armor Edition, but you'll feel like an influencer getting the bag they got. And let's be honest, if you can convince 499 other people to go in on this minimum order of 500, then you are, in fact, an influencer by any measure.

Pop! PEZ: Mega Man - Gyro Attack ($4.99) - Do you like Pez candy, Mega Man, or Pop! figures? If the answer to any of those options is yes, then you might enjoy the Pop! Mega Man Pez Dispenser. With a color scheme based on Mega Man's Gyro Attack from Mega Man 5, now you too can pretend you're using the Gyro Attack by flinging Pez candy at the robot masters in your life...or watch the Pez candy just fall to the ground because this is a Pez dispenser, not a Nerf gun. Not recommended to actually use as a robot master weapon—that would just be a waste of good Pez candy.

Gamer Girl Coloring Book - Swearing Version ($7) - My daughter games. When my daughter games, she swears as if she’s auditioning for a position teaching sailors how to cuss. This one is a no-brainer. And doesn’t this ring true? Be honest! “When a potato takes up the same amount of inventory space as a [redacted] rocket launcher.” Note: this gift is not appropriate if the gamer in your life is playing with a Nintendo.

Game Over Black Ceramic Mug ($10) - You have to see this to believe it. It’s a 14 oz. mug with two handles shaped like console game controllers. Sure, it looks a bit too silly to take to work, but the two handles will ensure that you will be able to hold it even if your hands are still shaking from your latest close call in Payday 2 VR. 

Steel Series Mouse Pad ($10) - A new mouse pad is one of those gifts someone doesn't know they need, but will appreciate as a stocking stuffer. Plus odds are that the person you're buying this for hasn't replaced their current mouse pad for quite a while. Steel Series is also known for making some pretty quality gear, so this is the perfect entry point into their eco-system. 

“I went outside once, the graphics weren’t that good” T-shirt ($15-$20) - Having played SubLogic Flight Sim on the TRS-80 back in the late 70’s, Dave never understood the appeal of 8-bit (or 16-bit, for that matter) games. Although…back in the day when the planes Dave flew were rentals equipped with ancient mechanical gauges, he always enjoyed flight sims with the more modern “glass” panels. Fast forward to today when his own airplane has incredibly sophisticated glass avionics and you will see him more commonly seeking out the old “steam gauge” vintage planes to virtually fly around in. Maybe Dave does understand the appeal of retro games, but very much doubts that they will ever interest him. This shirt, though—he would wear it.

Super Mario Bros. Welcome to Warp Zone! Puzzle ($15) - If like me, you're a fan of both puzzles and Mario (or know someone who is), a nice Super Mario-themed puzzle could be a great gift idea. Plus, once it's finished, it can be glued together and become a fine addition to any game room.

Metal Role-Playing Dice ($17) – Dungeons & Dragons is probably the most popular it’s ever been, and that includes when the tabletop RPG system launched in the ‘70s. These dice are weighty and unarguably gorgeous, I don’t care which eye of the beholder you’re looking through. Critical hits and misses have never rolled more beautifully.

Bionik Face Pad for Oculus Rift ($20) – As much as we love to share the Oculus experience with friends and family, we stopped doing it once we noticed that the irritating tickle on our faces was coming from human hairs stuck to the pad. Sure, many (if not most) of them came from our own head, but even that comes with its own concerns, chief among them being our staunch belief that any hair removed from our scalp at our age is unlikely to grow back.

Iron Wolf VR ($20) - When VR first came out, there was something very similar to a gold rush as developers sensed opportunity in the newly emerging market. A lot of dreck was pumped out, but there were also some very clever games put out by dev teams and individual developers that are so utterly immersive and fun that a $20 price tag seems ludicrously low. One of the best is Iron Wolf VR. You can play solo or with up to four other players as you sneak along below the ocean surface (unless you have a fervent desire to be attacked from the sky by enemy airplanes) attempting to sink enemy shipping and live to tell the tale. There are crew five positions that can be played by a human or AI, but there is no restriction on players moving from one station to another. This, this, is exactly the game you bought your VR system—you just don’t know it yet. Or didn’t, anyway.

Razer Mouse Bungee ($20) - In the quest for the perfectly optimized desk space, you may find yourself craving a mouse bungee. Although there are a lot of lifehacks out there to make one yourself, there are plenty of purchasable options that will make raging at your mouse cord for getting stuck a thing of the past

 

$30-$70


8bitdo Bluetooth Controllers ($20-50) - The folks over at 8bitdo make some of the finest retro gaming peripherals on the market, and their catalog expanded significantly this year. From tiny SNES-style pads that fit into that little change pocket on your jeans to heftier Dualshock-style controllers, 8bitdo’s peripherals exude retro class and their high build quality is obvious as soon as you get one into your hands. Most of their controllers are fully compatible with modern consoles like the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, and they sell plug-n-play dongles that make any of their pads instantly compatible with legacy consoles. You can even buy 8bitdo retrofit kits that let you swap a Bluetooth-enabled PCB into your old controllers, making your well-worn NES and Genesis pads wireless. Any gamer would be happy to see an 8bitdo controller in their stocking this holiday.

Pound Technology PS1/PS2 HDMI Adapter ($30) - Why bother getting a PlayStation Classic when you could just hook up your old PS2 to an HDMI capable TV? With Composite/Component inputs pretty much gone from modern TVs, this is the best alternative to shelling out for a minuscule number of classic games on PlayStation Now. Plus with this coming from Limited Run Games, you can at least trust that it's going to be a solid product.

The Legend of Zelda: Arts and Artifacts ($35.99) - If you have a Legend of Zelda fan you need to buy a gift for, this is a book they'll likely enjoy. The Legend of Zelda: Arts and Artifacts is full of artwork from the entire Legend of Zelda series, up to Breath of the Wild which hadn't been released yet when the book was published. The book also includes a lot of the various items, enemies and bosses from across the series, as well as artwork and images from the original instruction manuals for each game.

Odroid GO ($36.95) - Emulation of old games is a complicated subject—after all, Nintendo just brought their full legal might down onto a couple of ROM-sharing sites. Of course emulation isn’t inherently illegal. I only emulate ROMs that I’ve personally backed up from cartridges I purchased legally. And Hardkernel’s Odroid GO portable game kit is the perfect way to dip your toes into the world of emulation. Released to celebrate Hardkernel’s 10th anniversary, the Odroid GO is an extremely low-power Game Boy-looking device that comes as an unassembled kit. It’s not very powerful; its 240MHz CPU can only muster 8-bit emulation at best. However it is completely open source, so you can program your own games or explore the back catalogs of the NES, Game Gear or Game Boy Color. It makes a heck of a retro Pokemon machine, that’s for sure, and it just might be a good introduction to basic programming and electronics for kids. And hey, with shipping it’s a little over $40. You can’t beat that.

Battlefield V ($39.99) - After reading up on our post on the sweet deal for half-off Battlefield V on PS4, Nick immediately went to his local Target and snatched up a copy. The deadline for that deal was Thursday, November 29. He checked out their website and found that while the console version of the game is back to full price, the PC version is $20 off. He's only had the chance to play the game a couple times, but what he's seen has actually assuaged his prior concerns about the game, based on both its marketing and beta performance. It is its own thing, not beholden to the previous entries, but still taking enough inspiration from them to evolve the formula.

Tetris Effect ($40) - Matt isn't joking when he says that Tetris Effect is his hands down game of the year. And it's the perfect game gift to get for anyone that owns a PS4, and even more so if they happen to own a PS VR that's just collecting dust. The sublime gameplay, consistent weekend events, and amazing soundtrack make this the perfect title to gift to anyone.

PS Plus Subscription ($40-60) - This is probably the best money we spend each year on gaming. Not every month knocks it out of the park, but over the year, man, there are some quality games that get added to our accounts. And that's not even factoring in the online multiplayer for which this is required for select games. Here are our standouts for 2018: Soma, Destiny 2, God of War III Remastered, CoD Black Ops III, Mafia III, Absolver, Mad Max, XCOM II, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Bloodborne.

God of War Original Soundtrack on Vinyl ($44) - Vinyl's recent resurgence into the somewhat-more mainstream means that there are even more opportunities to pick up video game scores on vinyl. God of War, one of the best games of the year, offers a tremendous soundtrack that should be a great option for any collectors out there.

Turtle Beach Recon 200 Wired gaming Headset ($49.99) - A product we reviewed in early November  was the Turtle Beach Recon 200 headset for Xbox/PlayStation and we found it to be a fabulous gaming headset, especially considering the price. It performed really well in both gaming and everyday use testing and had excellent sound. As we stated in our review, it featured functions and build quality that are not seen in a sub-$60 headset. If you are looking for one, and definitely if you have both a PS4 and Xbox One, this is your guy, as it is designed to easily switch back and forth between the two.

Corsair K55 Wired Gaming Keyboard ($49.99) - When Dan put together his gaming PC a little over a year ago, he had several keyboards to choose from. While he wanted to invest in something quality, he also didn't want to break the bank. He settled on the Corsair K55, and he couldn't be happier. It has an MSRP of $49.99, but we see it regularly discounted to $44.99 at major computer retailers and it is worth every penny. The response is great, the keys are solid, and the RGB lighting is on par with keyboards twice the price.  

Overwatch Nendoroid Figures ($50) - If you're tired of buying someone Blizzard credits as a gift, consider an Overwatch Nendoroid. These things are the perfect desktop companions, and they're cute as a button. The roster of characters is slowly getting bigger, but a lot of the most popular characters are already out there, and D.Va even comes with a mini-mech.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ($60) - Chuck might grumble about Nintendo’s over-reliance on nostalgia, and to be fair nothing irritates me more than empty, cynical exploitation of nostalgia for profit. However even the most ardent curmudgeon has to admit that the Super Smash Bros. series is sincere video game nostalgia distilled into a sort of art form, and the latest entry, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, stacks up as more complete, pound for pound, than any previous game in the series. Seventy gaming icons spanning multiple console generations and platforms coming together in the ultimate free-for-all to end them all, with their accompanying franchise kitsch and baggage along for the ride, an extensive new adventure mode to boot, and DLC coming soon after that. Smash Bros titles might not be the most technically minded fighting games, but conversely they are basically living, breathing, playable, once-in-a-generation video game museums unto themselves. There arguably hasn’t been a bad one yet, and Ultimate looks to pack the most content into a $60 package since Valve released the Orange Box over a decade ago. ‘Nuff said.

Distressed Cowboy Hat (cost of hat plus $70) - Dave has deliberately avoided mentioning Red Dead Redemption 2, but he has to make a confession: he wears a cowboy hat when he play it. It provides a measure of ambiance, as well as the Horse and Saddle Leather-scented candle, if he ever manages to find such a thing. It’s going to cost around $300 when it’s all said and done, but seriously, it’s worth it right? Especially if someone else is buying it.

Xbox Design Lab Custom Controller ($75) - For those who play in the console space, Microsoft offers controller customization through the Xbox Design Lab. You can recolor almost every component of the controller to make your perfect personal peripheral, even adding in camo coloring or a controller with your favorite NFL team logo. 

PAX Three Day Badge ($80) – The Penny Arcade Expo has become the ultimate convention-going expression of the average gamer. They’re also held across the U.S., from Seattle to San Antonio to Boston and Philadelphia. Everyone in the Lower 48 is now a few hours’ plane ride to the nearest one. I’ve never aspired to go to PAX as a game journalist, but if a badge were given to me, I’d find my way to the nearest one.

 

$100 - $200


RetroPie Kit/Components ($100-160) - Once again, emulation is tricky business; only emulate games you own and/or have backed up personally, etc. etc. That said, it’s clear that the big publishers don’t care about preserving their back catalogs nearly as much as the fans do, so for now it’s up to hobbyists to keep the dream alive. The best step after something like the Odroid GO is to build a RetroPie machine: an emulation device with a Raspberry Pi single board computer at its heart. You can pick up kits of generic components like the one we’ve linked, but it’s better still to purchase the individual parts and make one yourself. Retroflag sells some excellent NES, SNES and Genesis cases and USB controllers for the Pi so you can build your RetroPie in style. Sure, it’s faster and a little cheaper to just plunk down $80 and buy an SNES Classic. Building a RetroPie console and tweaking the emulation image to perfection takes time and patience, but ultimately a RetroPie can do a whole lot more than Nintendo, Sega or Sony’s plug-n-play consoles, and the build experience itself will teach you a lot too. A well-constructed RetroPie console can easily play anything from the Fairchild Channel F up to the original PlayStation, but more still, a perfection-tweaked RetroPie in a snazzy case on your entertainment center is a mark of craft, skill, patience and pride. If you’re confident in your build skills, make one for a friend this holiday, or get them a quality kit if they’re the hobbyist type.

ECHOGEAR Premium Dual Monitor Stand ($120) - Those craving extra desk space may be looking to mount up their monitors. This dual monitor stand offers a desk clamp solution that makes it easy to adjust monitors without the use of any special tools, so it's a go-to gift for those mounting monitors for the first time.

Microsoft Xbox Elite Wireless Controller ($139) - If you game on either Xbox or Windows PC, this is a must have. We've used a lot of Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers in the last 15 years, and none have come close to the quality and precision that the Elite controller offers. Throw in the case, the many options to configure it with various buttons, sticks and pads, and you have a versatile controllers that is high quality. If you do not believe me, just check out the recent announcement of similar units by third-party companies that cost close to $200. At $139 on Amazon, this is a steal as it usually sells for $150. 

Scuf Infinity Controller ($140) - There are a lot of buttons on the modern day gaming controller. Too many in fact, and the vast majority get mapped to just your two thumbs. You could go with the claw method, and probably suffer through terrible arthritis in your later years as a result, or just spend a little more, grab a Scuf Infinity and map to those paddles to whatever you need them to be.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Leather Jacket ($169) – The barn jacket never fully went out of style for companies like Carhartt, but the exact cut and pocket arrangement—not to mention it being all leather—is harder to track down. Arthur Morgan is the consummate Marlboro Man, and this jacket is the first and most important step towards living the life of an outlaw.

 

$200-$500


Playstation VR Bundle with Moss and Astro Bot ($199) - The PS VR has slowly amassed a pretty good collection of games this year. With Tetris Effect sitting at the top, there's a couple of more other games right on its heels, and two of the best games out there, Moss and Astro Bot, are available with a PS VR bundle. The price point for this bundle is also very attractive, and thankfully doesn't require the PS Move controllers to get started. 

Nanoleaf Light Panels ($230-$400) - A fantastic lighting solution for an office, game room or just about any room in your house, the Nanoleaf panels feature individual panels that connect together in virtually any shape you want. You can customize the colors anytime or add the rhythm kit to have the colors change with music as it plays.

PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro ($300-$400) - In 2013, the PS4 didn’t have much advantage over a mid-range gaming PC and the utter and complete lack of backwards compatibility irked us, but now things are a lot better. Simply put, PS4 has the games, and it’s always, always, all about the games. Killer exclusives like Horizon Zero Dawn, Dad of Boy God of War, and Persona 5 already made it a tempting prospect, but Spider-Man pushed it over the edge for us. In addition, you have the Yakuza series, and remasters of PS3 classics like the Uncharted Trilogy, Bioshock and Shadow of the Colossus. It’s also a great place for third party releases like the Far Cry series and Red Dead Redemption 2. Sony’s console also has a healthy suite of streaming options, supporting most current digital services. The PS4 might not be the best value out there, but it’s a very solid place to play current-gen titles and stream TV and movies, ironically the way the Xbox 360 was the best all-around set-top-box last generation. 

Loot Crate, 12 month Subscription ($312) - The gift that keeps on giving, and giving...and giving. Why not subscribe to an entire year of swag, delivered monthly? Sure the crates are hit or miss, but that's a lot of the fun of it.

TCL Roku 4K TV ($319) - These TVs are the perfect no-frills entry to get in to 4K visuals with the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. The inclusion of the Roku interface also makes it possible to watch 4K Netflix and gives you access to all the cord-cutting options out there. These panels also have a pretty good latency, so they're great for music or fighting games as well.

Nintendo Switch with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ($359.98) - With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate here, what better time to pick up a Nintendo Switch if you don't already have one? With a roster that includes every Smash Bros. character to date as well as some new additions, there's no better way to spend the holidays with family than to have everyone fight it out over who gets to use the Pokeball that just dropped into the arena.

Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch VR System ($400) - It doesn’t matter all that much as long as you get a decent enough system to work with good flight and/or racing sims. Sure, the resolution isn’t that great. It looks like you left your glasses at home and everything is a bit fuzzier than you’re used to, but the benefits of VR immersion and scale outweigh a little blurriness. With racing sims, the amazing head-tracking, which is orders of magnitude better than TrackIR, and better depth perception make an incredible difference in correctly getting through turns as fast as the car, track and weather will allow, and also help a great deal with your situational awareness, especially when it comes to the other cars that may or may not be right next to you as you dive into a fast corner. 

Fanatec ClubSport Pedals v3 ($400) - Yes, it is a pretty big pill to swallow if you just spent $900 on a wheel. While good force feedback is essential for on-the-edge control of the car, so is a brake pedal with a load cell rather than a position sensor. Braking is every bit as critical when you’re racing at the top levels, but measuring pedal travel can’t provide the realistic feel that you get from load sensing. Race-level braking requires precise repetition at each and every turn, and the best way to do that is with muscle memory trained by pressure applied, not position. And yes, these too will make you faster.

HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset with Motion Controllers ($449) - For those that do not want to pay the $700 for a Vive or $500+ for an Oculus, then this HP system is a great buy, especially being on sale. While you don't quite have the freedom the Vive can provide by using base stations and wireless to open up a larger play area with better motion control, you also will spend a lot less money and get a better image on the screen.  A couple of cameras on the front of the headest capture the dual controllers, and within about 10 minutes, you can get into VR.  A great buy, especially on sale, for someone looking to take the plunge. 

Thrustmaster TPR Brake Pedals ($500) - Since the dawn of decent PC-based flight sims, the weakest link in the chain of well-built and well-designed controllers has been rudder pedals. Until now. After the introduction of the awesome TPR pedals, which Dave was able to spend some time with during the big Oshkosh airshow last summer, that is no longer the case. Now all he needs is an equally nice set of pedals at a lower price point—something more in tune with what he's able to spend on “game stuff” without causing domestic strife.

 

$500+


The Sims 4 Everything ($540) - Randy loves The Sims. Well, loved. It’s a lifestyle that he can’t afford anymore, as made apparent by the staggering price tag he'd be facing were he to buy every piece of downloadable content that’s come out since launch. Pet Stuff, Spooky Stuff, Fitness Stuff, Backyard Stuff; Get to Work, Get Together, Get Famous—get your wallets. Randy isn't buying The Sims. But boy would he play some Sims if these all showed up in his stocking.

Viewsonic PX706HD Gaming Projector ($795) - We reviewed this back in November and gave it the highest grade for a any projector we have reviewed. It offers the best bang for your buck to game on a massive screen with impressive picture quality.

Razer Phone 2 ($800) - The Razer Phone 2 was released just a few months ago, and continues to be one of the premier phones for those looking to game on the go. As one of the only phones with a 120hz screen, the Razer Phone 2 brings a lot of tech to the table other phone makers haven't gotten to yet. 

Fanatec ClubSport Racing Wheel BMW ($900) - Similar to the need for high fidelity controllers, racing sims had long been plagued by inferior racing wheels until the advent of decent force feedback and a controller that could make use of it. There are a number of them now, but a high quality FFB wheel is going to set you back at least $300-$400. If you really want to get a usable and accurate feeling of what’s happening with your tires as they respond to various deformations in the track and/or begin to lose grip, you really need to step up to Fanatec. The ClubSport BMW is a great wheel for high-end sims like iRacing, Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, etc. And yes, it will make you faster. And if you’re using VR, it will add realism like you’ve never felt before.

NZXT BLD Service ($1000-$2500) - Want a custom PC without the trouble of having to build your own? NZXT's BLD service offers a custom PC builds with an appreciable level of transparency. You start off picking the kinds of games you want to play with the PC and then give them a budget and they generate a build, showing you the expected FPS you'll get in your games of choice. It's a great service and is perfect for those looking at getting their first gaming PC.

MSI GS63 Stealth Gaming Laptop ($1,400) - Earlier this year before I went to GenCon I decided to finally get me a new laptop.  I was looking for one that could do streaming, video editing and a decent level of gaming. The MSI GS63 isn't the most top-of-the-line gaming laptop, but for $1,400 it does the job pretty well. Granted most of the high-end graphics games I play are several years old, such as BioShock and Borderlands 2, but this laptop handled Far Cry 5 once I lowered the setting a bit. If you're looking for a good gaming laptop but you don't want to spend a fortune, the MSI GS63 Stealth is a pretty good laptop. 

Asus ROG 27" 4K 144Hz Gaming Monitor ($2000) - Instead of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen, not dark but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Tempestuous as the sea, and stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me and despair! 

That's our list, let us know what you think about our ideas or share your own thoughts on gifts in the comments!

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom. I was a Microsoft Xbox MVP from 2009 to 2014.  I currently own stock in Microsoft, AMD, and nVidia.
 

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