The best gifts for gamers to upgrade your experience
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Finding the right gift for the gamer in your life can feel like an unbeatable game in and of itself, especially if you aren't a gamer. If you can drill down a little deeper though and find out what kinds of games they like, their preferred platform, or if they've ever shown interest in tabletop or board games, you'll be a whole lot closer to succeeding in your quest.
If your gamer is stuck in the last generation, then a next-gen upgrade is always a winning bet. If they prefer PC over console, then a responsive wireless mouse or a secure gaming backpack could take their game to the next level. Subscriptions to services like PlayStation Plus, Nintendo Switch Online, and Xbox Live Ultimate are great for social gamers, and they even come with free games to play.
Whatever type of gamer you're buying for, we have recommendations that will hit the mark.
The Nintendo Switch is a perfect gift for both serious gamers and dabblers. Nintendo's wealth of exclusive titles makes this an excellent second system for both console and PC gamers, but it also gets most of the big multi-platform releases. It also works as both a portable and a home console, which makes it a huge upgrade for anyone who games primarily on their phone. It's portable enough to take just about anywhere, but it can also connect to a TV for a big screen gaming experience.
Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch OLED model this year that has a fantastic new screen, but it costs a bit more, plays the same games, and isn't any more powerful. The ultra-portable Nintendo Switch Lite also plays all the same games, which makes it a great choice for mobile gamers.
Buy It! Nintendo Switch w/ Neon Blue & Neon Red Joy-Con, $299.99 at amazon.com.
Sony's most powerful console ever supports cutting-edge features like ray tracing that help bring games to life, and it's a must-have for anyone who games on a 4K UHD TV. It's also been super scarce until recently, so there's a good chance your favorite gamer may not have one yet. It's a hot ticket item though, so don't wait to pull the trigger.
Aside from being one of the most powerful consoles ever, the PlayStation 5 has a bunch of great exclusives you can't play anywhere else, like Returnal, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and Ghostwire Tokyo, and it also runs PlayStation 4 games with faster load times and better frame rates. That means if your favorite gamer is deep into the recently released God of War: Ragnarok on their PS4, they can transition seamlessly to the new console.
Buy It! PlayStation 5 Console, $499.99 at amazon.com.
Xbox Series S
The Xbox Series S isn't Microsoft's most powerful console, but its aggressive price point does make a great gift if you're buying for a kid, someone who already has another console, or a gamer who doesn't yet have a 4K TV. It's also the most affordable way to get into the current gen of gaming. One five-star reviewer loved that, "Microsoft made a way for players not to miss out on next gen experience due to not being able to afford it!"
The Series S plays all the same games as the more expensive Xbox Series X at a much lower price, with lightning-fast load times, decent frame rates, and high definition graphics. It's the perfect match for Microsoft's Game Pass service too, which is an optional service that lets you stream a ton of great games.
Buy It! Xbox Series S, $239.99 (orig. $299.99) at amazon.com.
This open world action-adventure RPG is one of the most highly-acclaimed games of the year. It's from the same people that made Dark Souls and Bloodborne, but they tapped George R. R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame to create the lore and flesh out the foreboding Lands Between. This dream team cooked up a world that's vast and mysterious, and full of challenging gameplay and secrets to discover. That makes this a tantalizing gift for gamers who appreciate a challenge, and especially for anyone who has enjoyed From Soft games in the past. It's available for both previous and current gen consoles and PC, so identify your gamer's platform of choice and wrap this one up.
Buy It! Elden Ring for PS4, PS5, Xbox, or PC, $39.00 (orig. $59.99) at gamestop.com.
Dreamlight Valley is Disney's answer to Nintendo's popular Animal Crossing series, and it hits a lot of the same notes. It's a laid back life sim in the same vein as Animal Crossing, with activities like gathering, fishing, and crafting, but with a Disneyfied spin. You find yourself working for Scrooge McDuck and completing quests for classic characters like Mickey and Goofy, more recent favorites like Elsa and Moana, and everyone in-between. Whether the gamer in your life is already into this type of game by way of Animal Crossing, or they're just a huge Disney fan, Dreamlight Valley is a delight.
Buy It! Dreamlight Valley for Nintendo Switch, $25.49 (orig. $29.99) at amazon.com.
Ring Fit Adventure
Ring Fit Adventure is a bit of a Trojan Horse, disguising a surprisingly intense workout behind an adventure game. It comes with a Pilates ring and a leg strap that are each designed to accommodate a Nintendo Switch controller, so players are forced to get up and move their bodies to defeat enemies and progress through the game. It doesn't require a ton of space or any extra equipment, so it's a pretty decent way to sneak in a workout while also playing a remarkably addictive game.
Buy It! Ring Fit Adventure - Nintendo Switch, $69.88 (orig. $79.99) at amazon.com.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest installment in Activision's long-running and insanely popular first person shooter franchise. It comes with a white-knuckle single player campaign that plays out like a blockbuster action movie, and a fast-paced multiplayer component with a ton of options and variety. This is the best Call of Duty game in years, so it's a great jumping off point for new players and also an opportunity for old fans to get back in. It's expected to be the only Call of Duty release until 2024 too, so it'll have more staying power than Activision's yearly release schedule typically allows for.
Buy it! Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, or Xbox Series X, $69.99 at gamestop.com.
Meta Quest 2
Virtual reality is more accessible than it's ever been thanks to the Meta Quest 2. This is a standalone VR headset, which means it has everything you need to get started right in the box. The headset works by itself without a computer or sensors, and there's no complicated setup. It supports seated and standing play in addition to roomscale, which is a mode where walking around in the real world is directly translated to walking around in the virtual world.
The best thing about Meta Quest 2 is that it's extremely versatile. While it's a completely self-contained unit that doesn't need any additional hardware, it can connect to a computer. That means if you're buying for a PC gamer who has a VR-ready computer, they can connect the headset wirelessly or with a USB-C cable to play games that aren't available directly on the Meta Quest 2.
Buy It! Meta Quest 2 — Advanced All-In-One Virtual Reality Headset — 128 GB, $399.00 at amazon.com.
Logitech G335 Headset
This wired headset uses a standard 3.5mm audio jack, so it's compatible with a huge variety of devices. That makes it an excellent choice if the gamer in your life plays on multiple platforms and doesn't mind the physical cable. It features comfy memory foam earpads that block out unwanted external sounds and a high quality microphone for in-game voice. The mic flips up when not in use to get it out of the way, which also mutes it automatically.
One five star reviewer stated that even though headsets usually give them tension headaches, the G335 was so comfortable they were able to "play for 3 or 4 hours at a time and never had any discomfort."
Buy It! Logitech G335 Wired Gaming Headset, Compatible with PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, $39.99 (orig. $69.99) at amazon.com.
SteelSeries Arctis 1 Headset
This wireless headset is a perfect upgrade for multi-platform gamers. It connects wirelessly to PlayStation consoles, Macs and PCs, and it has a USB-C dongle that lets you use it with the Nintendo Switch and Android phones. It's even compatible with Xbox consoles through a wired connection to the controller. One five star reviewer even called it "plug-and-play perfection on multiple devices," citing the fact that there is, "No set up. Just plug it in and done," and that, "The battery easily lasts all day." The detachable noise-canceling mic also works with voice chat on every platform.
Buy It! SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset – USB-C – Detachable Clearcast Microphone – for PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Lite, Android – Black, $93.99 (orig. $99.99) at amazon.com.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Headset
Audiophile gamers will appreciate the premium high fidelity drivers built into this flexible wireless headset. It supports 360 degree spatial audio for incredibly immersive gaming experiences and a bit of an advantage in competitive multiplayer games. It also features both active noise cancellation and transparency to shut out the outside world or let it in as needed. Power gamers will especially enjoy the infinity power system, which allows batteries to be hot-swapped during long gaming sessions without missing a beat.
This headset works with all platforms and connects to multiple systems at a time, switching between them at the push of a button. It can also mix game audio with Discord, music, podcasts, and other sources. One multi-platform gamer said this is the best headset they've ever owned, citing that, "There is a dedicated Xbox port and the remaining USB port connects to the PlayStation 5 or a PC. It's a seamless transition."
Buy It! SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless Multi-System Gaming Headset, $349.99 at amazon.com.
X Rocker Pro Series Gaming Chair
Any chair that works for the office will also work well for gaming, because things like comfort and ergonomics are paramount in both cases. The X Rocker Pro Series gaming chair goes beyond mere comfort and ergonomics though, with four built-in speakers and a subwoofer. Vibration motors augment the sound too, syncing up with the game audio for a more immersive experience. One five-star reviewer raved about the audio, saying that, "the speakers sound very full and have a nice, solid, firm and punchy bass (no long vibrating rumble, but instead it is powerful, punchy bass that is tight and hits hard and fast." It even folds up for storage when not in use, so it's easy to set it up front and center for a long gaming session without having it in the way all the time.
Buy It! X Rocker Pro Series H3 Black Leather Vibrating Floor Video Gaming Chair with Headrest, $249.99 at amazon.com.
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
The standard Xbox Wireless Controller that comes packed in with the Series X and Series S is great in its own right, but the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 takes it to the next level. The basic design is similar, but this controller features a wraparound rubberized grip to help with sweaty hands during long game sessions, an improved d-pad for precision inputs, and customizable paddles on the back. It also includes a rechargeable battery that can last up to 40 hours between charges. It's compatible with Xbox One and PC as well if your gamer plays on those platforms.
The customizable paddles really help this controller stand out, since they open up so many new control schemes and gameplay options. One five-star reviewer loved this customizability in particular, saying, "I love how easy it is to add and remove the paddles in the back, especially because you can put different paddles in different spots or even turn the paddles upside down.. or only use 1 paddle.. or 2 or 3 or none at all!"
Buy It! Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 – Black, $159.98 (orig. $179.99) at amazon.com.
DualSense PS5 Controller
The DualSense is Sony's best controller yet, and it may just be the best controller ever, full stop. The biggest features are the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback that allow for unique control schemes and more immersive gameplay, and the controller also includes a touchpad and built-in microphone. Since the console only comes with a single controller, every PS5 gamer needs at least one extra DualSense to play local multiplayer and co-op, and preferably two or three to get all their friends in on great four player games like Sackboy, FIFA 22, or NBA 2K22. These controllers also work on PC, and some PC games, especially Sony ports, even take advantage of the advanced haptics and adaptive triggers.
Buy It! Sony PlayStation Dualsense Wireless Controller - PlayStation 5, $74.00 at amazon.com.
Hori Split Pad Pro
The Nintendo Switch isn't super comfortable to hold for long gaming sessions, but the Hori Split Pad Pro fixes that problem. These controllers replace the standard joy-cons, providing a bulkier, grippier base that's easier and more comfortable to hold onto. The analog sticks are bigger and super responsive, the triggers are more pronounced and easier to use, and the d-pad is a huge improvement over the directional buttons found on a standard joy-con. These joy-con replacements don't interfere with the dock either, so they can stay on when it's time to charge the Switch or play in docked mode on the big screen.
Buy It! Hori Nintendo Switch Split Pad Pro (Black) Ergonomic Controller for Handheld Mode, $44.98 (orig. $49.99) at amazon.com.
Logitech G502 Mouse
Every serious PC gamer needs a great mouse to back them up, and the Logitech G502 is one of the greatest of all time. This mouse doesn't have a cord to get tangled up during intense game sessions, and its lightning fast 1 millisecond response time won't get in the way of even the twitchiest gameplay. It's also compatible with the Logitech G Power Wireless Charging System, which can keep it powered up without ever needing to plug it in. All 11 buttons are customizable too, which makes it very flexible if your favorite gamer plays a lot of different types of games. It also has an adjustable weight system, which lets serious gamers rearrange internal weights to achieve the exact feel they're looking for.
Buy It! Logitech G502 Lightspeed Wireless Gaming Mouse with Hero 25K Sensor, $89.99 (orig. $149.99) at amazon.com.
Lenovo Legion Backpack
The Lenovo Legion Backpack makes a perfect gift for the gamer on the go. It features a high density EVA molded front that pulls double duty looking cool and protecting your favorite gamer's most important gear. Within that protective shield, it has a dedicated compartment that easily accommodates a 17.3 inch laptop, along with pockets for a keyboard, mouse, headphones, and other accessories. There's also plenty of space for gamers to pack along extra hardware like a Switch or Steam Deck, and all the rest of their most essential gear. There's even an external water bottle holder for tactical hydration. One five-star reviewer appreciated all the space and protection, and also had high praise for the design, saying, "I know it's for gaming but it looks very presentable and professional."
Buy It! Lenovo Legion 17" Armored Backpack II, Gaming Laptop Bag, $63.38 (orig. $99.99) at amazon.com.
If the target of your gift-giving mission plays a lot of games on their phone, the Backbone One is an absolute game changer. This controller snaps onto a phone and plugs into the charging port, so there's no latency or delay from the controls. It's a transformative experience to go from on-screen controls to physical analog sticks, a snappy d-pad, and triggers that work just like any console game controller. The physical controls provide a huge advantage in competitive games, and make the phone more comfortable to hold for long gaming sessions too.
The only catch is that there's one version for iPhones and one for Androids, and they aren't compatible, so you need to verify the kind of phone that's in play ahead of time. Each version of the Backbone One is additionally available in an Xbox or PlayStation style, but that's purely aesthetic. Choose the one that matches your favorite gamer's console of choice, or just go with the Xbox version because it comes with a free month of Game Pass.
Buy It! Backbone One Gaming Controller for iPhone, $63.69 (orig. $99.99) at amazon.com.
Buy It! Backbone One for Android - Black, $99.99 at bestbuy.com.
Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook
Dungeons and Dragons has exploded in popularity in recent years, fueled by appearances in popular media and a surge in actual play live streams. If you've caught your favorite gamer watching D&D streams, they've shown interest in joining a campaign, or they've even sat in on a few sessions, their very own copy of the Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook might just be the perfect gift. While it's possible to play without owning any books, and your favorite gamer may already be doing just that, the Player's Handbook is an indispensable resource that includes all of the rules, classes, and spells they need to get a real handle on the game.
If your favorite gamer already has their own Player's Handbook, you might consider upping their game with the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Expansion Gift Set, which includes three additional source books that add a ton of new options for players. Budding dungeon masters will also appreciate the Dungeon Master's Guide, which has all the info they'll need to run their own campaign.
Buy It! D&D Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook), $19.25 (orig. $49.95) at amazon.com.
D&D Spellbook Cards
Tabletop gamers typically share a deep and abiding love for fancy dice, if you're looking for a quick and easy gift, but a set of official D&D Spellbook cards can really help level up their game. Each set contains one card for each of the spells that are available to one class, which really helps speed the game up and adds a fun extra tactile dimension. If you aren't sure which set to get for the gamer in your life, don't worry, D&D players typically love to talk about their characters. Just take note of what class they are, like Cleric or Bard, and buy the appropriate set, or splash out for the entire collection if you're feeling generous.
Buy It! Spellbook Cards: Bard (Dungeons & Dragons), $16.09 at amazon.com.
HeroQuest is a board game that's billed as a game system because it has essentially unlimited replayability. It's kind of like Dungeons and Dragons lite in that it has all of the dungeon crawling and none of the role playing. The board is reconfigured before each game according to one of the 14 included quests, and players can also design and play their own quests. The basic idea is that one player controls all of the monsters as the game master, and the other players try to survive, beat the monsters, and return home with the loot. There is also a free companion phone app that lets you play the game solo or cooperatively with your friends if nobody wants to be the game master.
Buy It! HeroQuest Game System Tabletop Board Game, $119.27 (orig. $134.99) at amazon.com.
Gloomhaven is the perfect choice if your favorite gamer is ready for something a little more advanced than HeroQuest. Players choose a character to level up, as long as they can survive, through a series of adventures. It has strong Choose Your Own Adventure vibes in the way quests work, serious strategy chops, and a brutal learning curve. Sessions are pretty brisk and usually only take about an hour or two, but an entire campaign can take nearly 200 hours. This is also a fantastic introduction to legacy games, which is a style of board game where player actions add, change, and even remove various components, so no two campaigns will ever play out the exact same way.
Buy It! Cephalofair Games: Gloomhaven, Award-Winning Strategy Board Game, $101.99 (orig. $165.00) at amazon.com.
Game Pass Ultimate
Game Pass Ultimate is essential for Xbox gamers, and it's also a fantastic addition to any PC gamer's repertoire. This subscription service includes Xbox Live Gold, which Xbox players need if they want to play online, and it also grants access to a library of more than 100 free games. Xbox Game Studios games like Halo even hit the service the very same day they come out. It also includes EA Play as an added perk, and games from a variety of other companies. Games are free to download and play as long as they remain part of the lineup, with the option to purchase at a discount. The service also lets you stream games to your Xbox, PC, or even your phone, through Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Buy It! Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: 3 Month Membership, $44.99 at amazon.com.
PlayStation Plus is Sony's online gaming service, so it's essential for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 gamers. This service allows gamers to play online, and it also includes access to free games. It's a little different from Microsoft and Nintendo's services though, as there are a few different tiers to choose from. The Essentials tier gives access to a few free games each month, Extra provides access to a catalog of hundreds of free games, and Premium tags on the classics catalog and cloud streaming.
The good news is you don't need to worry about any of that when buying your gift. When you buy PlayStation Plus Wallet Funds for your favorite gamer, they get to plug the code in and choose whether they want a longer subscription at a lower tier or a shorter subscription at a higher tier.
Buy it! PlayStation Plus – Wallet Funds, $55.00 at amazon.com.
Nintendo Switch Online
If your favorite gamer plays a lot of Nintendo Switch, then Nintendo Switch Online is an easy, inexpensive, option. This service is required to play Switch games online, but it also includes access to a ton of free games, with more added all the time. The core of this library is made up of over 100 classic NES and SNES games, including all-time favorites like Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Donkey Kong Country. It also includes Nintendo 64 games like Mario Kart 64 and Ocarina of Time, Genesis games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and more.
Buy It! 12-Month Individual Membership - Nintendo Switch Online, $19.99 at amazon.com.