The 2022 Esquire Gaming Awards

gaming awards
The 2022 Esquire Gaming AwardsMike Kim


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gaming awards
Mike Kim

Welcome, gamers. I stand before you for the first time since The 2021 Esquire Gaming Awards, Sponsored By Arby’s*, to present The 2022 Esquire Gaming Awards, Sponsored By Wendy’s.**

This year, I’d like to keep my Esquire Gamer Zone keynote speech brief. You know us by now. We’ve spent the year bunkered down in places we’d rather not tell you about, playing the latest and greatest in video games. We play said titles with the brand-spankin’-newest in gadgets, gears, and accessories, with the goal of sharing the best with you, right here, right now. In 2022, we played as cats, turtles, golfers, Gremlins—yes, those Gremlins—skaters, demons, and trombonists. As always, our adventures changed us forever. Here, you’ll read every gritty and embarrassing detail from our escapades, as we tell you what left the most indelible impression on our immortal gamer souls.

Now pull yourself together. Wipe your tears. We present to you, The 2022 Esquire Gaming Awards, Sponsored By Wendy’s.**

* You’re dead to the Esquire Gamer Zone, Arby’s, even though we were never formally sponsored by you. You heard our calls. You heard… our cries. I once suffered a fit of explosive diarrhea at 2 a.m. on the morning of Valentine’s Day just because I wanted to show my love to you by downing 12 Jamocha shakes at once. Does that mean anything to you? Answer us, Arby’s!

** Wendy’s! Hi! Listen, we aren’t sponsored by you—yet. But I’m willing to shill for your fries and also shit my boxers under the cover of night in your honor. Call us now, and we’ll dye our hair brick-red, grow it to double-ponytail-length, and formally change each of our names to Wendy.

GAME WINNERS

Game of the Year
Elden Ring

I mean, of course it is. If you're surprised, or angry, then kindly shove it. Elden Ring is my game of the decade. It's truly a masterpiece. Few other games have had me dive in so deep, and left me so damn excited to replay it so many times in one year. I have not shut up about Elden Ring—and I won't until every gamer has become Elden Lord. Now, the only thing on my holiday list is that we get a DLC announcement at the Game Awards. Here's to you Erdtree. I’ll be back soon. —Cameron Sherrill

Best Story
God of War: Ragnarok

While I may have thought no game could compare to Elden Ring this year, God of War: Ragnarök arrived. I mean, the game is also a damn masterpiece—and one of the most well-told stories I’ve ever experienced. Beyond all of that, the game has some of the best combat out there. It’s rare that a title is this fun and sports such a masterclass in storytelling, but here we are. God of War: Ragnarök gives pieces of its story every single second through settings, cutscenes, and more—drawing from some of the most-accurate depictions of mythology in pop culture we've seen. It's not only a must-play, but a must-experience. —C.S.

Best Multiplayer
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Bang bang, blap blap—few war crimes never felt so good. I can't stress this enough, but I am not a COD gamer. I’ve sucked at it since the last Modern Warfare 2. Well, COD found a return to form that feels just as fun (and remarkably toxic!) as it did back in 2009, and wow, did I miss it. The game is versatile, smooth, and not riddled with hackers... yet. It's just what the doctor ordered for some insane fast-paced mayhem. (Read: my doctor, who absolutely tells me to play COD for reasons I will not share with you here.) Once again: bang bang! —C.S.

Best Fighting Game
MultiVersus

Not to overshare—but, you know, to overshare—I had reached a point in my life where I was so burnt out with playing as Kirby in Super Smash Bros. that I wished I could simply be Kirby, so I could transform into a rock and never have to play as Kirby in Super Smash Bros. again. Enter MultiVersus, the Warner Bros. IP-populated brawler, which at first seemed like it could be a little cash-grabby. Nope. Turns out, MultiVersus comes from a we-really-give-a-shit team, which is damn good at keeping its players happy. Plus, the gameplay is a blast, of course. Now, please hold for a second while I make like LeBron and posterize you. —Brady Langmann

Best Protagonist
The Cat from Stray


Mew! Meow meow meow. Rawwrrrremeow! Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow. Mew. (Translated: nothing gave us more pleasure this year than pouncing around as the tabby cat from Stray.) —B.L.

Parent of the Year
Kratos

Ah, who would make a better father than the God of War himself? Sure, back in the original games, Kratos was such a bloodthirsty, vengeance-filled badass that none of us would have thought we’d give him a number-one dad mug, but we've seen a new side of the man. Now with Ragnarok, he gets even fuzzier. Sure, he still decapitates, slices, and bashes, but daddy-o also protects and teaches Artemis. I love Papa Kratos—and I hope he loves me. —C.S.

Best Pokémon
Fuecoco

In recent generations, Pokémon have looked less and less like cute animals to collect—and much more like monsterized human beings. Some, like the recently announced bagel dog, Fidough, or the adorably grumpy pig, Lechonk, are a step in the right direction. But none of the new additions compare to one of the three starter Pokémon announced for Scarlet & Violet: a fiery half-crocodile, half-ghost pepper cutie named Fuecoco. It’s such a strong combination of good design and cute aggression that I just might make Fuecoco my whole personality. He is perfect, and I will die for him. —Josh Rosenberg

Best Demon
Lambert, Cult of the Lamb


Now, we’re really getting into it. Sure, of course, we have to help our ad sales team find a way to publish our insanity, with Game of the Year and whatever, but what is the Esquire Gaming Awards without Demon of the Year? Following last year's sweeping victory of Margaret Thatcher from Thatchers Techbase, this year's award goes to the adorable and maniacal cult leader Lambert. Whether Lambert is his actual name is, well, not clear, but the Internet thinks so. Lambert runs a cult with the demonic powers of cute animals he can sacrifice, train, marry, or whatever! Cult of the Lamb is a must-play ths year, whether you're a demon lover, lamb lover, or just really like gaming. Happy Gaming Awards to all, and remember applications for Best Demon 2023 will open in the new year. —C.S.

Best Mobile Game
Shovel Knight Dig

I am a Shovel Knight stan. I never understood the T-Swift, Harry Styles, or BTS communitie, until I realized how I feel for Shovel Knight. That little fella could make me eat my vegetables if they put him on broccoli. So when Shovel Knight Dig came out for Mobile and Switch, I was immediately in. It's Shovel Knight crossed with Downwell, with a downward momentum-based platformer. All of the Shovel Knight classic enemies are here, plus a bopping soundtrack. It’s nice to see Shovel Knight finally digging. —C.S.

Best VR Game
Among Us VR

Nightmare. Absolute nightmare. Among Us doesn't feel like a scary game. Tense, maybe, but not scary. Until you have to do it in VR. Among Us hit streams everywhere during the pandemic as a virtual version of classic games like Mafia, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and Secret Hitler. It's simple: crew-mates try to complete tasks, and imposters try to kill crew mates. Fun! Until you're being chased by a maniac in close proximity, screaming, "I’m going to kill you!" down the halls of a spaceship. It’s the most exercise I’ve had in months. C.S.

Best Revival
TMNT Shredder’s Revenge


A dream come true. Truly. I never thought we’d get another co-op beat-em-up like Turtles in Time again. The prodigal sons Dotemu came and said, "We got you, Cam." That's right: they made this game for me, and only me, but I am generous and hope gamers everywhere also enjoy it. TMNT Shredder’s Revenge has fantastic art direction and animation. Just Like Dotemu did with Streets of Rage, they deepened the combat and expanded the game well beyond what Turtles in Time even had to offer. This game also has an up-to-six-player co-op online, really making it the complete replayable package. It's a great title for some holiday co-opand a great gift for any retro lovers. C.S.

Best Kickflip
Olli Olli World

With surprisingly intuitive controls for a 2-D skating game, Olli Olli World will delight indie fans and Tony Hawk Pro Skater experts alike with gnarly, varial-heel flips and grind rails. The game is also full of quirky characters and Adventure Time-like design, along with one of the best character customization options in any game released this year. I chose to shred looking like the oldest grandpappy of Radlandia, which only added fuel to my opponent’s ire as my rad dad topped their high scores. —J.R.

Most Anticipated Game
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom


Oh, the so-called "kingdom" has tears? Does it? Really?! I will drop-kick the kingdom because of my tears, which have filled my neighborhood pool and the one in the next county over. Yes, reader: I haven’t stopped weeping since 2017, when we all beat The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild—leaving us to await its sequel. It’s been nearly six years now, but 2023 will (seemingly) be our year. I’ll drain the pool when I’m actually parasailing through the air in Tears of the Kingdom, as if I never left. —B.L.

Best DLC
Monster Hunter Sunbreak


Hunt monsters with your best friends, a dog, and a cat. What the hell else do you want? You can dress the cat up like Sonic, and the dog up like Rush from Mega Man. I've sunk over 400 hours into this game, which iss one of the deepest experiences on Switch and Steam. Then Sunbreak released. Sunbreak brought a whole new level to this already perfect iteration of Monster Hunter. And if you think I’m talking out of my ass, I’ll have you know I’ve been playing Monster Hunter since 2004 on the PlayStation 2. And after nearly two decades of hunting beasts, I'll say that Rise and Sunbreak make for most fast-paced, accessible, and generally fun romps the series has ever offered. —C.S.

Best Sports Game
PGA 2K23

The best (worst?) thing I can say about PGA 2K23 is that it routinely drives me to the sickening level of delirium I’ve experienced in only one other game: Elden Ring. I’m not quite sure how 2K invented such admirably complicated controls that I find golfing in PGA 2K23 nearly as difficult as the real deal, but the studio pulled it off. The game is an absolute beast to master—this isn’t NBA 2K, my guy, where you can jack up threes and high-five your punk-ass Zoomer friends—which makes even a double bogey feel like you won the damn Masters. —B.L.

Best Ongoing Game
Destiny 2


The Witch Queen arrived this year, along with a ton of new content and a road map for Destiny 2. Sure, this game came out with its vanilla version in 2017, which was fun but fairly weak. Destiny 2 is now a completely different beast, with far deeper combat, tons of gear, and more game modes than I can count. Destiny 2 still has a remarkably strong community, and so much I had to catch up upon diving back in this year. With Lightfall coming in January, there's more Destiny goodness on the way. So why not hop back in, Guardian? —C.S.

Best Racing Game
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

I’ve seen enough speed runs of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe courses to believe that this deluxe repackage of an eight-year-old racing game had been fully broken, but boy was I was wrong. As it turns out, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still the highest-selling Switch game since the console’s debut. I’ve gone from first place to dead last after getting blasted off course since Mario Kart 64, so I clearly have not given this game up either. To celebrate, Nintendo announced that the company would be adding 48 new courses over the next two years, so it's time for the world record holders to start all over again. I'm saving my blue shells for you when we meet online. —J.R.

Best Dog
Tie Between Mabosstiff from Pokèmon and Wobbledogs

Listen, people. The new Pokémon title came out last Friday so no spoilers, but trust me. See all the good boys in there, and if you disagree, I swear to god I’ll kick your ass. For Best Dog 2: Wobbledogs wins it. Just look at those little Wobbledoggys! Please contact me directly if you'd like to give them any pets and/or treats and/or take any photos with them, for $20 apiece. No further questions at this time, please and thank you. —C.S.

Funniest Hat
Kirby

Gamer Zone bullshit alert! Last year, we named a fucking airplane as out Protagonist of the Year. (RIP Airbus!). This year, it's a whole new direction: Funny Hats. Funniest Hat 2022 was a tough category this year. I spent weeks—no, months—of company time finding hats in video games so that we could find the funniest one. I come to tell you the funniest hat of the year is not a hat at all. It's a video game classic known for wearing hats: Kirby. Kirby has become the hat. A car hat, a cone hat, and my favorite, large round object hat. Sometimes the hat isn't on our heads... it is our head. —C.S.

Best Party Game
Nintendo Switch Sports

Embarrassed by my brother-in-law in chambra? Check. Got in a fight with my partner because I genuinely did want to kick her ass in tennis? Check. Tried to do that thing in bowling where you throw the ball 10 lanes over and freak all the Miis out? … Check. Wii Sports is back, baby. Well, technically it’s Nintendo Switch Sports. But the greatest party video game of all time—suck it, Mario Party—will always be called Wii Sports in my heart. Now, can we get baseball back, please? —B.L.

Best Rhythm Game
Trombone Champ

BWOOOP BWOUGH BWOOP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. WOUGH BWOOP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. WOUGH BWOOP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. WOUGH BWOOP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. WOUGH BWOOP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. WOUGH BWOOP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. WOUGH BWOOP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. WOUGH BWOOP. BWWAAAAMPER BWOMP BWOIROMP. (This game is great. I'm the Trombone Champ. Suck it, tools. These are prestigious awards.) —C.S.

Best Fortnite Appearance
Three-Way Tie Between Goku, Luke Skywalker, and LeBron James

Something must be said about how Goku, Luke Skywalker, and LeBron James can all hit the griddy together in Fortnite now. So, I’m saying it. Who would have guessed, when the battle royale game entered our lives half a decade ago, that Harley Quinn and Naruto would ever exist interact within the same space? And that, again, Goku, Luke Skywalker, and LeBron James can all hit the griddy together in Fortnite now?! Well, here we are! It’s a gamer’s paradise, baby, and everyone’s invited. —J.R.

Best Villain
Margit the Fell, Elden Ring

Gaslight, Gatekeeper, Girlboss. To those of you who haven't played Elden Ring—which, how?—that probably sounds like nonsense. To those of you who have, know that we’re in this together. Margit is the first gate-keeping boss in our No. 1 game of the year, and in true Soulsborne fashion, also one of the hardest. This bastard will smash you with his cane, magic sword, plus a whole host of other daunting tricks to keep you from playing. Survive though, and Margit unlocks hundreds (!) more hours of white-knuckled battles and intense stress—which is what gaming is all about, right? —C.S.

Biggest Existential Threat to Video Games
Chris Pratt’s Mario

It’s a me, just a dude with a lazy-as-hell Brooklyn accent. You know Mario, the Italian plumber with the yippee! and wahoo! rallying cries. Well, Chris Pratt, the actor best known for playing Chris Pratt, Prattified the mustachioed racer in Illumination’s upcoming The Super Mario Bros. Movie and takes home the dishonor of being 2022’s worst, most dubious threat to what we gamers are all about. The desecration that the former guardian of the galaxy did to the hero of the mushroom kingdom will not be forgotten—and never forgiven. —C.S.

Best Fishing Minigame
Sonic Frontiers


Sonic the Hedgehog may be known as a speedy platformer, but Sonic Frontiers challenged the titular blue hedgehog with puzzles, massive bosses, and a particular fishing minigame that lets you skip entire sections of the game. When I wasn’t running so unbelievably fast that I was skyrocketed off the map, you could find me at the lovable Big the Cat’s watering hole, baiting marlins and carp. These catches will reward Sonic with materials needed to progress throughout the game—but the kinds of rewards received are truly staggering. Entire levels can be skipped by just playing a simple fishing minigame, surprising me with how much fun it was to simply be reeling around at the speed of sound. —J.R.

Best Concert
Charli XCX, Roblox

Ticketmaster driving you insane? Just head to Roblox, a kid-friendly virtual game in the same vein as LEGO and Minecraft. Popular artists such as Lil Nas X, Denzel Curry, Twenty One Pilots, and Charli XCX have been holding “music concerts” in the meet-up space—surprisingly attended by millions. While many performers situate themselves on a stage outside of the playing area, Charlie XCX drove fans wild when she appeared in game as a giant avatar, towering over everyone else. Singing “Good Ones,” the giant Charli stomped around the world of Roblox as users screamed for her to please step on and crush them with her dancing virtual feet. Scary! Maybe FromSoft will put Charli XCX in the next Dark Souls. —J.R.

FASHION CORNER

Welcome, noobs and dorks, to Cam Sherrill's How to Dress Cool When You're Not Cool. Just kidding everyone: gamers are the future. Vote for me as the First Gamer President, because I’m the best shot we have. Now, I may be Esquire's resident nerd, but Jonathan Evans, our Fashion Director, has the right to give swirlies to anyone who doesn't reach a certain bar of fashion and sleaze in our office. After many swirlies, I’ve found my style—and I even get to sneak some of my gamer prowess in there, too. While you may not be at risk of losing your lunch money like I am (I need a new job!), you can still look cool while looking nerd chic.

Rowing Blazers x Sonic The Hedgehog

Easily my favorite collab of the year. Rowing Blazers is retro, quality, and all-around cool. The outfitter brought the iconic Blue Blur into some of its classics. Featuring rugby shirts, gym shorts, vintage-style T-shirts, this partnership makes for some of the wildest and slickest gamerwear on the market. I mean, even if you don't like Sonic (shame on you), wear Rowing Blazers, at least. Actually: can we start a petition to get the big-screen Sonic outfitted in Rowing Blazers? Something tells me that will be an improvement over the nakedness and/or cowboy outfits.

Burberry x Minecraft

Lol wanna spend 3k to show you're a master crafter with one of the subtlest, yet coolest Car Coats out there. What about the classic Burberry plaid Scarf, with some Minecraft daisies and fonts. This collection is wild, yet works extremely well. It’s high fashion, dawned with one of the biggest games out there. It’s expensive, sure, but no one can shove you in a locker for wearing a 500 dollar T shirt, right? Actually, Esquire's Fashion Director, Jonathan Evans, could shove me in a locker. If we had lockers!

UNIQLO x Final Fantasy

UNIQLO went all out for Final Fantasy’s anniversary, with a collection of T-shirts celebrating all the main games in the series. They’re cool, affordable, and UNIQLO has some of my favorite heavy (and just the right amount of boxy) T-shirts out there. meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow. SHIT! That's the cat from Stray again. Get out of here, cat!

Polo Ralph Lauren x Fortnite

It’s Polo Ralph Lauren... with Fortnite. The funny horse is replaced with the funny llama! (Perfect for a more preppy gamer look.) There's even an in-game skin collab, so you can be fashionable in and out of the battle bus. Mew mew mew mew mew Mew mew mew mew mew Mew mew mew mew mew Mew mew mew mew mew Mew mew mew mew mew Mew mew mew mew mew Mew mew mew mew mew. No! I told you!

Neff x Fortnite

In a more skatewear and streetwear-focused collab, Neff teamed up with Fortnite for hats, hoodies, and T-shirts. The designs are rad, kitschy, trippy, and cool. Of course, this is only the beginning, as more and more brands jump on the gaming collab train. I predict that next year, we'll see a Bubsy 3-D x Coach collab. Mrow? Mew! Fine. I have treats for you, you cute little cat.

GAMING GEAR WINNERS

Best Controller
Scruf Reflex

Get clapped, you noob. Scuf Reflec amped up my COD and Fortnite skills ten-fold. Back pedals and customizable inputs make for one of the best-feeling controllers ever. While there may be no secret weapon to being a better gamer, the Scuf Reflex is about as close as you can get to pay-to-win skills. Plus, Scruf launched a whole custom site, letting you build your own badass controller. Now, dear player of video games, what kind of masterpiece are you going to make with all of that power?—C.S.

Best Gaming Chair
SecretLab Overwatch

Comfort is a must for nose-scoping, felling enemies, or vacation home decoration! SecretLab has long been one of my favorite gaming chair companies, just because said chairs are so damn comfy. Now, with Overwatch 2’s release, SecretLab has Tracer and Genji-themed chair that are classy conversation pieces. They straddle the line perfectly between gaming and office chairs—working wonders for those of us who have desk jobs that turn into gaming stations by night. —C.S.

Best Monitor
Samsung Ark

Curved. Modular, The Samsung Ark lets you be the gamer you want to be. Want to have a game with a massive field of view? You can do that. Or do you want to have a massive area for your editing timeline and rendering? You can do that, too. The Odyssey Ark looks gorgeous, with one of the crispest, fastest, and most vibrant pictures I’ve seen. But, yes: if you're not a gamer (side note: how have you made it this far?!), the Samsung Ark is well worth the investment.—C.S.

Best Modular Controller
Victrix BFG

The BFG is one of, if not the most modular controller on the market—preparing you for everything. With triggers that can become hair triggers for fast firing, a polygonal joystick slot to ace your Hadoken in Street Fighter 6, plus just about every other accessory of a modular thing you’d want. Plus, now you don't have to wait for the Dualsense Edge, considering this is completely Sony-endorsed. By the way, the BFG? That name sound familiar to you? If you know, you know. —C.S.

Best Fight Pad
Pro FS

With Street Fighter 6, Tekken 8, and some other truly fantastic fighting games on the horizon, it's time to go pro and get a fight stick. If you don't know what a fight stick is and why the hell you need one, Google it, Chuck. The Pro FS has high quality material and cool, understated LED accents, which are customizable. The Pro FS is the perfect fight stick—and a must-buy if you're a PlayStation player. Now, my dear friends, please proceed to kick some ass for me, OK? —C.S.

Best TV
Any Samsung TV

Listen: Samsung is now the gamer's TV. Samsung has integrated gaming streaming apps like Xbox cloud gaming right into the tv. Connect a Xbox controller, get a Game Pass subscription, and bam—no console needed. Truly, Xbox cloud gaming has come so far that it's nearly indistinguishable from playing on a console, as long as you have a good connection. Plus, Samsung TV’s have notoriously deep color, a high frame rate, and an insanely crisp picture for next-gen games. The future really is now. How much cooler can things get? —C.S.

Best New Console
Steam Deck

Elden Ring... on the go?! Hold, on, you're telling me there's now a handheld way to play Death Stranding?! Gamers, gamers. This is insane. The Steam Deck is a miniature PC that can play AAA games... and it's the size of a Nintendo Switch. I couldn't think of a better new console if I tried—because I imagined when I was younger what it might be like if my PSP was 8x its original size. Now, I have exactly that. —J.R.

Most Fun
Playdate

The Playdate is so damn fun, we named it Most Fun twice. This thing is brought to you by the creators of Untitled Goose Game and Teenage Engineering, so it's naturally a blast. It's a little yellow, Gameboy-esque thing, with a crank on it, plus one of the crispest black-and-white screens I’ve seen. You get two games every week—and all the games feel different and addictive. The Playdate, quite simply, puts the fun back in gaming. As the whole gaming world edges to the biggest, most technical, and extremely competitive limits, it's nice to return to the roots for some good, plain ol' fun. —C.S.

Best Gaming PC
Starforged Systems

Brought to us by some of the world's top streamers, OTK (with members including J-Schlatt, Emiru, Nmplol, and EsfandTV) and MoistCritikal, who teamed up to make some of the coolest, powerful, and badass PC builds on the market. I mean, who better to make PCs than a team who's working on them all the time? Starforged Systems has a PC for every price point and every power level you’d want. —C.S.

Best Gaming Laptop
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14

ASUS has become a gaming household name—and the new ROG Zephyrus is the perfect example why. It has major power and runs remarkably cool, while being one of the thinnest, lightest, and sleekest gaming laptops on the market. It's perfect for jet-setting gamers... or gamers who want to use their company premium to buy a laptop that can pass as a work-appropriate machine. Just keep Excel wired to a hot key. —C.S.

Best Headset
Naruto Hyper X

People of the world: we now have Naruto-themed PC accessories. And they're beautiful, metallic. and work extremely well. Need I say more? —C.S.

Five Gamer Zone-Approved Gifts

Ho-ho-ho and Hum-hum-hum, Santa Cam is here to give gift ideas for any gamer bum. [Chimes and jingle bells play in the background] It’s that time of year, when we have to get gifts for our families, friends, nieces, nephews, dentists, and family attorneys. But what of the dreaded gamer? Well, I have some options for you that aren't new games—so you don't have to worry about double-gifting and can get something truly special. For those of you who may not be well-versed in the world of dungeons, dorks, and dipshits, allow me to be your creepy Tom Hanks Polar Express conductor and teach you how to make your gamers' holidays special.

For the Retro-Inclined
Analogue Pocket

Any retro handheld game, this thing can play. The Analogue Pocket is perfect for the retro game collector—or that gamer who used to be attached at the hip with their Gameboy. It's a great way to bring nostalgia and some of that old school magic back to the gamer you love. Once again: did we tell you how many titles this damn thing can hold? Have fun running around in the 8-bit Pokémon underworld, fellow gamers.

For a Truly Bespoke Gift
Custom Controller

Controllers are a gamer's best friend. They're sidekicks, the plus-one! Why not make it special and give them a fully bespoke experience? Build them a custom controller—or get them a gift card to do it. I get my brothers bespoke controllers every year, and it's an absolute hit every time. There are plenty of places to shop for these, from my personal favorite, Colorware (who offer retro color variants of Nintendo and Playstation controllers), or Scuf to create a modular elite controller. Hell, Xbox has its own built-in Design Lab. You can even engrave these bad boys. I’m telling you, this is THE gift to get your gamer.

For The Collector
Fangamer, Iam8bit, Mondo Shop

Fangamer and Iam8bit are long-treasured secrets in the gamer community. They both offer wonderful products, including plushies, soundtrack vinyls, collector editions, art books, and so much more, from games such as CupHead, Elden Ring, Undertale, Sonic, Halo and Banjo Kazooie. If your gamers are fans of one of the titles offered on these sites, I guarantee they'll be blown away by the craftsmanship each one offers.

For the Fashion-Inclined
Insert Coin Clothing

Please reference Cam's Fashion Section. OK, for real, Rowing Blazers Sonic, Fortnite Neff, or anything from up there—they all have great options. Beyond those fellas, check out your gamer's favorite merch store, and chances are that they have some cool stuff, like this canvas jacket from Overwatch. There's also gamer fashion sites like Insert Coin that rep tons of games, and make some truly high-quality and respectable fashion options for all things gaming. So don't go to the graphic T-shirt section of Kohls and get the same lame Mario shirt.

Last-Minute Gift
Digital Store Gift Cards

Don't overthink it. Just get a card or digital subscription for your gamer. These are available everywhere—or can ship digitally, making either a great last-minute gift. Just find out what your giftee play games on and the rest will follow suit. Sure, it may seem like low lift, but no gamer, anywhere, will ever be mad when they see a card for their system.

GAMING LIFESTYLE WINNERS

The Gamer Zone Legacy Award For the Outstanding and Unforgettable Betterment of Gamers’ Lives Worldwide
John Madden

Amidst the sheer madness of these awards, I hope you’ll allow me one moment of earnestness. John Madden, the man behind the iconic video game series that bears his name, passed away late last year. In turn, Madden 23 classily put the legendary coach and broadcaster on its cover, dedicating the entry to him. In January, I wrote about Madden, and want to echo my sentiment here: “Madden gifted everyone who played his game a version of what he must've felt on the gridiron. It's the feeling of when the sum of it all—the X's and O's turning into names like Brady and Branch, turning into a touchdown as thousands cheer—makes you so damn excited that you pump your fist.” —B.L.

Streamer of the Year
T-Pain

T-Pain is very bad at video games. No shade–the “Buy U a Drank” singer will tell you that himself. “There are definitely good players out there that make a ton of money, but I think the entertainment that comes from somebody like me being trash at it, I think that’s just more valuable and more entertaining,” T-Pain said on Steve-O’s Wild Ride! podcast. And he’s right! As fun as it is to watch the best-of-the-best whiplash around a game and rack up insanely high kill counts, sometimes it’s just as entertaining to watch a guy just as bad as me absolutely fail. Hell, T-Pain was so confused by Animal Crossing that I even helped him out once. Let me buy you a drink, buddy. —J.R.

Creator of the Year
Will Neff

Will Neff has had a banger of a year. It’s been a rollercoaster, for sure, with the rise and demise of G4, but Will seems to have no lack of inner resilience. This fella is everywhere— and seems to be loved by everyone. People cant say enough nice things about him, and his content and collabs are through the roof. From his fantastic show featuring QT Cinderella (spoiler alert: another winner!), where Will plays the titular character, Donna (who is on a brief hiatus after the G4 knock out), to his co-hosting with Austinshow on Name Your Price, to appearing in every event, everywhere, this guy is on fire. He’s a streamer who innovates, stays involved, and seems to have everyone's back. On top of it all? He's damn hilarious. Neff’s just getting started. Even now, it's clear that it’ll be one hell of a ride. —C.S.

Gaming Event of the Year
QT Cinderella’s Streaming Awards

I mean, this damn award show was made by streamers, for streamers, and had more class than the Academy Awards—which, yeah, isn't the highest bar. It was fun, understood the tone Twitch viewers want, and of course, raked in the views. The Streaming Awards honored the top folks on the platforms and was a heartwarming event where all the top content creators got together to support one another. QT Cinderella and co-host Maya Higa put on the heart with a little bit of scuff at the core to make a perfect event we hope isn't going anywhere for the next few years. —C.S.

Gamer Zone’s Most-Wanted Fugitive
Cam Sherrill

Seriously, what the fuck is up with this guy? I’ve edited, spent time with (in person, yuck!), and worked with this Blam Carol jagoff, and I’m all the worse for it. When will he stop? Where will he stop? The following words may frighten your children—don’t let them see it!—but Sam’s menace has reached the level where I must simply name him Gamer Zone’s Most-Wanted Fugitive, so that the feds, who are reading this, will take him away forever. —B.L.

Game We Miss the Most
1 vs. 100

Whomst among this contingent of Esquire Gamer Zone readers remembers 1 vs. 100 on the Xbox 360? I sure hope you do. Back in the aughts, Xbox adapted the reality competition show as essentially a massive multiplayer online experience for the 360. You’d sit around and answer trivia questions while you ate a Meatballs and Mozzerella Hot Pocket, but let me tell you—in an age where everyone was ’roided out on Call of Duty shooters—it was chill as fuck. Reports swirled as early as last year that Microsoft was resurrecting 1 vs. 100 as a VR experience. Which one of you can put in a good word with Bill Gates for me? —B.L.

Best Gaming Subscription
Xbox Game Pass

Still the best damn value in gaming. For a monthly payment, you get access to hundreds of games—many of them on day one. Plus, now you can enjoy these from PC or cloud gaming as well, increasing the value of this damn subscription even further. (As if it needed that.) —C.S.

Best Hollywood Star
Pedro Pascal

Fine: this may be a little preemptive. But Pedro Pascal—set to play Joel in HBO’s The Last of Us TV series—is the lord and savior of the video game adaptation curse, and there’s no way you (or Tom Holland!) can convince me otherwise. Listen, Pascal has two things going for him: 1/ In the trailers we’ve seen so far, he makes a damn convincing Joel, and 2/ He’s not Chris Pratt. Pedro Pascal will save us all. I just know it. —B.L.

Best Gaming Supplement
Nespresso’s Stormio Boost Pod

Last year, I named my Starbucks order as the best gaming supplement. (I won’t state it again at this time and place.) I’ve changed a lot over the past year—more than you know, reader—and I’ve simply realized that Starbucks is too far. A 10-minute walk? To the Starbies in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, just so I can dick around in Madden’s franchise mode for five hours? Suddenly unimaginable. This summer, I wised up, took my grown ass to a Williams Sonoma and bought a Nespresso. Not too long after that (... that night), I found out that the most cracked-out pod is called the Stormio Boost, which not only makes me feel like a dumbass every time I say it out loud, but it caffeinates me to the point where I can’t sleep anymore. It’s perfect. —B.L.

Best Gamer Feast
Arby’s

Listen, Arby's. I know at the top we lead you astray. But that was just to make you jealous, OK? (And maybe get sponsor money.) We have wanted you, and only you to sponsor us. You have won an award from us for three years in a row. Now, it's time that you reciprocate. You are the gamers' chosen one with your succulent beef, cheesy mozz sticks, new, returning wagyu burgers, the spicy sandwich, and those curly fries. Oh, those curly fries! Nothing sustains my big boy gamer appetite like you do, so please help me feed my family*—or what your drivethrough employees must assume is my family with the amount I am ordering. Come join in this Jamocha Swirl union and take the plunge with me, Arby's. The world is waiting. Gamers.. are waiting. —C.S.

*I don't have a family—just piss-poor self-control.

Best Dave & Busters
The D&B in Shenandoah, Texas

Ah. Damn. The Dave & Busters in Shenandoah, Texas. I may shed a tear. It’s near a trampoline park and a shop called Precision Camera & Video, Texas’s favorite camera store. Ding, ding, ding, stuffed cinnamon sugar churros, Hungry Hungry Hippos—you know, you really can become a legend here. On Google, there are 1,150 reviews of the Dave & Busters in Shenandoah, Texas, but perhaps no one described it better than LynAli, who once wrote, “Just the right amount of good and fun.” —B.L.

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