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The holidays only mean one thing for a certain type of person: a bounty of new video games to play.
While I’ve always loved video games, I probably play them more regularly as an adult than I ever did as a kid. And the same seems to be true for many others. The average gaming American now appears to be in their mid-30s, and at least some survey data suggests that adults have only become bigger gamers in recent years, perhaps in no small part due to the covid-19 pandemic keeping people at home.
Most people who play video games or might be interested in playing them aren’t god tier operators, though, but more of your typical but beloved casual n00b. So if you want to help friends and family discover the joy of gaming, here are some great options. Many of these picks are newer releases, but there are some time-honored classics as well. Feel free to shout out other suggestions in the comments.
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Pokémon Scarlet and Violet
Who to buy this for: The animal lover.
Why: Game Freak’s latest main entry in the long-running Pokémon series is out this November. While some die-hard fans have complained about these games getting easier over time, the quality-of-life improvements they’ve accumulated should make them a fun ride for folks with relatively little gaming experience. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have some new wrinkles for veterans to enjoy as well, such as a more truly open world and a new assortment of unbearably cute Pokémon, some of which come with frightening implications that you shouldn’t think too hard about.
How to play: The pair of games are only available on the Nintendo Switch for $59.99.
Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster
Who to buy this for: A burgeoning RPG fan.
Why: This one’s a bit of a cheat, since Final Fantasy VI, aka Final Fantasy 6, aka Final Fantasy 3 in North America originally, was first released on the Super Nintendo 28 years ago. But while emulation fans might prefer working their magic to play the SNES or GBA version (I sure did), the Pixel Remaster version released this year is sure to be the best way for most people to enjoy what’s still one of the greatest in the genre—especially since it comes with modern improvements, like more detailed maps and an auto-battle function. And if your buddy ends up loving FFVI as much as expected, they can then try out the other Pixel Remaster entries.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
Who to buy this for: Someone who misses the 1990s.
Why: This 2022 beat-em-up harkens back to the quarter-swallowing arcade games of old but comes packed with features that will make the experience fresh for any gamer. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is also a great way to spend the afternoon with friends, since the main campaign should take less than three hours to complete and up to six players can join at once.
Who to buy this for: The MCU diehard.
Why: Marvel’s Spider-Man is undoubtedly a safe pick, but that’s just what you might need to sway a reluctant would-be gamer. Its mix of easy-to-grasp web-swinging and combat, engrossing story, and side missions galore add to a fun time that no one should be able to pass up. This year also saw the release of the remastered version to PC, so even console exclusivity isn’t an excuse anymore (though you will need a decent computer to run it)
Return of the Obra Dinn
Who to buy this for: Your local mystery buff.
Why: Released in 2018, Return of the Obra Dinn is an adventure and puzzle video game where you’re tasked to unravel the sudden reappearance of the titular merchant ship. But to say anything more could spoil the unique experience and narrative it provides. It’s a game that’s unlike most others, and that alone may be enticing for someone new to the hobby.
Who to buy this for: The cat dads and moms in your life.
Why: Many platformers let you play as an anthropomorphic or magical animal, but 2022's Stray is the first to replicate the real-life wonder of being a cat, complete with knocking stuff over and some big stretches. For those with limited time, it’s a brief experience through a post-apocalyptic world that should only take a few hours to beat. Just be warned, the ending is controversial.
Final Fantasy XIV
Who to buy this for: The person with too much time on their hands.
Why: Final Fantasy XIV, the critically acclaimed and chronically memed MMORPG, is one of the best time sinks and story narratives that any gamer can experience. Unlike other older MMORPGs, it’s remained very newbie friendly, even if the first portion of the main quest is less tightly paced than its expansions. With you by their side, though, your friend can get to the good stuff relatively quickly.
How to play: It’s available on PlayStation 4 and 5, as well as Windows and Mac, with the standard edition covering all four expansions priced at $59.99 and the starter edition covering Realm Reborn and the first expansion costing $19.99. After a complementary 30 days, you will also need to pay a monthly subscription of at least $14.99.
God of War Ragnarök
Who to buy this for: The potential hack-and-slash fanatic.
Why: This is the newly released follow-up to the much loved 2018 revamp of the long-running series. So far, early reviews suggest that while God of War Ragnarök doesn’t innovate the genre the way that its predecessor did, it’s still an absolute banger. If you’re looking to get your friends addicted to video games in general, there’s probably not much better that you can throw at them.
How to play: Released November 9, Ragnarök is currently only on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. But the franchise is no longer exclusive to the PlayStation, with a PC version of its predecessor released this year, so it may not take long for this to end up on PC as well.
The Portal Collection
Who to buy this for: Fans of puzzles, and even those who aren’t.
Why: Portal and Portal 2 aren’t just pinnacles of the puzzle-platform genre; they’re also some of the funniest games in history. Both feature wonderful voice acting and elegant gameplay progression that will win over even the most heartened anti-puzzle skeptic. And this year, Valve has released a collection of both games on the Nintendo Switch with new features that have only made them better, such as a higher framerate during the single-player campaign.
How to play: The Portal Companion Collection is only on Switch for $19.99, but both games individually are still readily available on PC and older consoles.
Breath of the Wild
Who to buy this for: The person who wants to get lost in a game.
Why: Some games are like a quick magazine read on the beach, while others are like a brick-sized tome you might take months to finish—not just because it’s long but because you don’t want to reach the end. Breath of the Wild, the latest Legend of Zelda entry released in 2017, is definitely the latter. It’s an open world game in every sense, and while the main campaign may take only 50 or so hours to beat, you can spend about 200 hours collecting everything it has to offer. So if your friend starts playing now, they might finish just in time to catch the upcoming sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, set to be released May 2023.
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